Pros: An amusing look at how easy it is to fall from favour and lose celebrity status.
Cons: Nothing much happens, even the cast seemed a bit bored at times.
The well-known dandy and (some say) original ‘celebrity’ Beau Brummell is down on his luck. In the opening scene of this production we watch him in his bath as he makes a half-hearted attempt to cut his throat. We soon learn that Beau is residing in an asylum in Calais, where he ran to escape his debtors. He is also suffering from the effects of syphilis. So all in all off to a good start!
Accompanied solely by his valet Austin, Beau Brummel has heard that his former patron, the Prince Regent – now King George IV as Austin keeps reminding him – is attending Calais on an official visit. He has convinced himself that the King will undoubtedly call on him, and attempts to also convince Austin of this, and to prepare himself as befits the occasion. Brummell is certain that when the King visits all will be well again.
The suitably small Jermyn Street Theatre emphasized the feeling of being cooped up in Beau’s ramshackle single room. In stark contrast to the wonderful costumes worn by the members of The Regency Society who attended this particular performance, Beau’s dress appeared soiled and dingy – hardly what you would expect from a man known for his cleanliness and elegance. Bursts of period appropriate music were played throughout which enhanced the atmosphere of the performance.
As the two characters argue, discuss and lecture one another about politics, the monarchy, style, fashion and elegance we gradually discover what led them to their present circumstances. There are sufficient jokes and amusing moments interjected at the right intervals to stop it getting too dull. I particularly liked the divine light encompassing Brummell as he stood, Christ-like, allowing the valet to minister to his person.
Richard Latham as Austin displays both frustration and kindness. He seems to be going a little stir crazy himself and is constantly thinking through money-making schemes which are all doomed to failure. Sean Brosnan as Beau Brummell is imperious and somehow vacant. Personally I would have liked a bit more definition between the periods of lucidity and delusion. They tended to merge into each other and it took me a few moments to adjust to whichever one we were witnessing. Perhaps that was the point.
This is essentially a conversation between two men who fail to listen to each other, and instead wander off on their own musings, frequently contradicting themselves. Certainly amusing and well produced, but don’t expect much action.
Author: Ron Hutchinson
Director: Peter Craze
Producer: European Arts Company
Booking Until: Saturday 11 March 2017
Box Office: 020 7287 2875
Booking Link: http://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/show/beau-brummell-an-elegant-madness/