The Actor’s Nightmare at Park Theatre
This cutting comedy casts an eye on the entertainment industry, inviting us to take a glimpse at what life is like for an artist in Tony Award-winner Christopher Durang’s typically surreal style. Attempting to entertain an audience about the world of entertainment itself is risky. Whilst works such as Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve prove captivating, this is primarily because they both have strong characters and a strong story at their heart. In contrast The Actor’s Nightmare feels somewhat disjointed with very little in the way of plot and requires its viewers to possess sound knowledge of the theatre and certain plays in order for the jokes and references to work. Perhaps the incoherence stems from the fact that this is an amalgamation of six short plays written by Durang, and whilst their themes intertwine, the overlaps often hinder the pace of this production.
This is a satire seeping with stereotypes but the jokes are mostly on an insider level, generating a feeling of isolation for the majority of the audience. That isn’t to say the play is absent of laugh-out-loud moments, however, these are too few and far between. The main issue is that the piece doesn’t really teach or tell us anything new and we’re left questioning what the point of it all is.
The characters are caricatures and whilst this somewhat serves a purpose in terms of the play’s subject matter, it provides a huge challenge to the cast. Fortunately for us, they are what rescue the show from tedium, embracing the material with gusto and having fun along the way as they all multi-role. Layo-Christina Akinlude is hilarious as the stereotypical agent and offers an interesting and comical take on Tennessee William’s most famous character, Blanche DuBois. Her scenes with Adrian Richard’s Stanley generate much laughter with the actor also excelling in his other roles and commanding the stage with his strong vocal presence. Stefan Menaul is perfectly cast as the accountant mistaken for an understudy, forced to perform without knowing his lines or even what play he’s in. Kate Sumpter demonstrates excellent physical comedy through her facial expressions and movements, with her scenes as Medea standing out in particular. Meaghan Martin is enjoyable in all of her roles; however, it’s her performance as a stand-up comedian who constantly requests her laugh track be played that stands out. Admitting her low-self esteem, this vulnerability is engaging and teases us with the level of depth the show could potentially offer but unfortunately shies away from.
The Actor’s Nightmare does not jolt us awake with new ideas and thoughts to ponder but director Lydia Parker and her company should be commended for their experimental efforts. The fact remains, however, that this is theatre for theatregoers and not all will appreciate or understand it.
Photo: Ali Wright
The Actor’s Nightmare is at Park Theatre from 16th July until 10th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for The Actor’s Nightmare here: