Pros: Beautiful and engaging story with wonderful core performances.
Cons: Serious lack of pace and the flow is uneven.
We all know the Tom Cruise gay rumours. I dare say some of us even know the George Clooney rumours. Both of these powerful box office kings are so far up the Hollywood food chain that we know whatever does happen behind closed doors will never ever see the light of day. But what about Rock Hudson? James Dean? Montgomery Cliff? Even the icons of Hollywood’s golden age weren’t safe from the secret meddling and manipulations of the studio machine that would instil so much fear in its gay stars that they couldn’t love who they wanted to love. This is the fascinating topic explored in the wonderful play The Glass Protégé.
Originally performed in London in 2010, under the title Secret Boulevard, The Glass Protégé is the brain child of LGBT aficionado and playwright Dylan Costello. The premise, albeit a bit predictable, focusses on young naive actor Patrick Glass, who arrives in Hollywood in 1949 and is set to be the ‘next best thing’ by co-starring opposite Hollywood royalty Jackson Harper. Needless to say, the two boys fall in love with each other and before you can shout ‘cut!’ the malicious studio producers and gossip columnists set out to intercept, halt and hide this indecency at all costs. If that wasn’t enough drama, the story also catapults forward 40 years to 1989, where we see Glass as a retired Hollywood legend living, still very much in the closet, with the regret of how things played out.
On paper this should work, but I found the time travelling unnecessary at times as it kept on disrupting the overall flow of the piece for me. The scenes and action taking place in 1949 flowed well, but as soon as we got to a potential juicy bit, we’d suddenly be flashed forward to the less interesting 1989. These constant transitions between decades need to be more finely tuned, so as to allow better fluidity. That’s not to say that I hated this play, because I didn’t. Costello’s script, although peppered with a few clichés, is rich and overflowing with some of the most beautiful lines I’ve heard in a while. Personal favourites have to be ‘This town is more about toeing the line, than learning the line’ and ‘When you live your life in the closet, you start to cough up mothballs’.
I found David R. Butler’s portrayal of the 1949 younger Glass strong; however his older 1989 counterpart, played by Paul Lavers, I found formulaic. Alexander Hulme is perfectly cast as the dashing Jackson Harper and gives a great performance. Sadly I found the love scenes with both men a bit forced and unbelievable, which was disappointing as it’s such a core part of the story. Ironically it was the fabulous women who stole the show for me. Mary Stewart, as the vile Jan Moir-esque bitch of a magazine columnist, is superb, Emily Loomes, as the tragic actress Candice, was stellar. And, most notably, Sheena May, as the East German assistant in 1989, was a sheer joy to watch. Stephen Connery-Brown, who plays Glass’s son George (yes, he got married and had a child!) also gives a solid performance. Director Matthew Gould, who I had the pleasure of chatting to briefly, directs with his heart on his sleeve and some of the scenes, especially in Act Two, I found very moving and beautifully executed.
The Glass Protégé, currently on at the awesome Park Theatre in North London, is a powerful drama with a hard hitting and tragic message.
Author: Dylan Costello
Director: Matthew Gould
Set and Costume Designer: Jean Gray
Sound Designer: Will Thompson
Booking Until: 5 May 2015
Booking Link: www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-glass-protg