Drawing the curtain aside to show the laughably humdrum, sometimes tawdry, nature of showbiz has been the topic of many playwrights from David Garrick to Tom Stoppard. This weekend at the Lichfield Garrick, local playwright Phil Preece takes a refreshing peek into the same backstage world in his double-bill That’s Entertainment, which also marks the first outing of his new company, Nobody’s Perfect Productions.
The opening two-hander, Mr Blue Sky, centres on jaded old rocker Vince Meager (played with wonderful exuberance by Denny Hodge) whose evening takes an unexpected turn when a fan (Della Allen) appears backstage with her mother’s scrapbook. Hodge gives us plenty of bombast as he resurrects showbiz nuggets from his long career, but gradually we see his mask slip, revealing the loneliness of his life on the road.
The second half, That’s Entertainment, is a much pacier play which tackles success, the media and the comedy partnership. There’s just a little bit of Ant and Dec about Joe and Lee (Tom McCarron and Steve Humpherson): a long-running comedy duo who are captured backstage at an awards dinner, having bagged the industry’s top gong. Yet, away from the media spotlight, Joe is beginning to voice some doubts about the career path he’s taken, while Lee is unwilling to challenge the status quo.
Preece’s dialogue is a joy, gently poking fun at his characters, but presenting a very human portrait that never slips into parody. It’s a real treat to see new writing of this calibre presented at a local theatre; you can catch That’s Entertainment tomorrow (September 5) at 7.30pm (further details on the Lichfield Garrick’s website).