Trafalgar Studios , London SW1A 2DY
Sometimes you become so conscious of a production, you can hardly see the play. This is one of those times.
It features four British comedy stars — ok, not stars, but three famous, one not so famous faces, who have been cast in this play mainly because of their TV appearances — and America’s hottest playwright. Well, not as hot as he was, but still, one of the best of his generation.
Neil LaBute’s latest, brutal offering is the second in a trilogy about how we judge — and are judged — by the way we look, as opposed to the way we are. The bigotry here is not racism but fatism.
In the, erm, voluptuous title role, Ella Smith plays Helen, a young, sweet-natured woman who falls for good natured Tom (Robert Peep Show Webb). But Tom’s fellow office workers — the vicious Carter (Kris My Family Marshall) and the vacuous Jeannie (Gavin and Stacey’s Joanna Page) — give him hell about the size of the girl he’s dating. Carter because “dudes” like them should go out with dudesses and not over-eaters, and Jeannie because she hates Tom for rejecting her for Helen.
LaBute’s speciality is in allowing his characters to say the things most people would only dare think. But it is in the saying that this production — directed by the author — falls down.
Apart from Marshall, who has a strong theatrical pedigree, this cast — particularly the too diffident Webb — are never at ease with the rhythms and mannerisms of LaBute’s American dialogue. This is far from LaBute’s best play but it deserves more than this cast who are mostly chosen for all the wrong reason. (Tel: 0870 060 6632)