Pros: Fast, dramatic and spontaneous. The most talented collection of actors you can imagine, performing a tall order with awe-striking competence.
Cons: Has the potential to exclude its audience members due to the in-jokes and niche context.
There are big names attached to the creation of The Kid Stays in the Picture, the biggest being Patrick Milling Smith’s co-producer Barbara Broccoli, who has produced the last eight Bond films. It would be uncool to drop names, but the audience of the press night was particularly star-studded. The atmosphere promised Hollywood. The play is based on the film of the same name, and follows the tumultuous life of Bobby Evans, producer of The Godfather, Rosemary’s Baby, The Detective and other similarly successful Paramount blockbusters. Evans’s life is very noteworthy: seven wives, cocaine trafficking and being accused of involvement in a murder in the 1980s are just a few of his personal milestones.
All of the plays I’ve previously seen at the Royal Court have been diverse and have tackled some harsh realities. The Kid Stays in the Picture is quite the opposite, dealing with the glamourous and not so glamourous sides of Hollywood. The consequence of such subject matter is that the play is quite exclusive. Much of the charm of the play relies on you recognising the places and the faces. The play snapshots the big moments of Evans’s life through the projects he worked on. I was much more engaged with the production when I knew what the films were, and who the actors were imitating. Despite this, the play is impressive. The cast are the cream of the professional crop, and it was quite an honour to see a production in which the most competent of actors are challenged. Heather Burns and Christian Camargo, in particular, provide astounding performances. The varied ensemble demonstrates that diverse casting is not only achievable in most plays, but can bring an incredibly special level of depth to a performance.
Admittedly, for the first twenty minutes I was entirely lost. Each actor plays a range of characters; the role of Bobby even switches between actors at intervals. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure this out. Sometimes one actor will be playing Bobby while another provides his voice over. Once it stops being confusing, it creates a very endearing premise and the equivalent of acting gymnastics for the cast. The staging is absolutely sublime: a bare stage with run-of-the-mill tables and chairs is framed by large screens, onto which film locations and most of the scenery are projected. Lighting designer Paul Anderson and video designer, Simon Wainwright, deserve much kudos. I imagine that creating lights to simulate a film within a film within a play is a challenge, and I watched in awe as the tone of the show changed in a millisecond, as the lights and visuals transformed the stage. The cast operate a camera throughout, so you can watch the actors either on the stage or on a screen. It’s very cinematic. We see both sides of the story at the same time: the glamour of the screen and behind the scenes.
The pacing of the show is unrelentingly quick. You cannot lose concentration for one moment, especially if, like me, you aren’t familiar with Bobby Evans’s life. The meticulous effort that has gone the dialogue, staging and choreography of the show makes you want to absorb every minute detail, from the incredible Marlon Brando impressions by Clint Dyer to the slick set changes performed by cast. The show is more of a spectacle than a play, but a life such as Bobby’s deserves such chaos!
Story Adapted By: Simon McBurney and James Yeatman
Director: Simon McBurney
Producers: Royal Court Theatre Productions in association with Complicite.
Box Office: 020 7565 5000
Booking Link: www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/kid-stays-picture/#book
Booking Until: 8 April 2017