Tuesday, May 28

Harry Clarke – Ambassadors Theatre

A rose by any other name… still has its thorns. It’s what we love about our favourite conmen, Anna Delvey, Elizabeth Holmes, Remington Steele… They’re beautiful but also terribly cringe inducing. We love to hate them but can’t quite bring ourselves to look down on them, so powerful is their allure. Maybe it’s the accent, each one unique and bizarrely captivating, all the more for its inauthenticity. Harry Clarke’s is immaculate, as is Philip Brugglestein’s. In fact, all of the characters Billy Crudup speaks on behalf of over Harry Clarke’s 80-minute runtime are perfectly articulated, under the supervision of vocal coach, Deborah Lapidus. The stage cousin of Matt Damon’s Talented Mr. Ripley, Crudup’s Philip Brugglestein / Harry Clarke is no less charming for being 30 years his film fellow’s senior. Where that story is obnoxiously elegant with its glowingly youthful and classically beautiful, universally porcelain skinned cast of upcoming young actors, desperate to prove something grand, this play is deliciously raunchy, refreshingly cynical, and knows exactly just how good it is.

Photo: Carol Rosegg

Comparisons might too be drawn to Emerald Fennel’s Saltburn, one of this year’s most controversial films, and a story that relies even less on the charms of its lead than on the richness of its surroundings, a common pitfall of the con genre. Here, however, all focus is on the character, or rather, characters, at the story’s centre.

Alexander Dodge’s simple but unpretentious set accomplishes a great deal here, giving Crudup exactly the right frame from which to shine, and under Alan C. Edwards’s lighting he beams. The entire production, from Kaye Voyce’s costumes to Bart Fasbender’s sound, is a masterclass in making brilliant, simple, and effective choices restrained enough that audiences’ attention is entirely focused on the whirlwind journey the main character is dragging them along on, almost entirely willingly. David Cale’s script is hilarious, moving, and exciting. So is Crudup, unflinchingly and unfailingly.

This is the rare theatrical event where you have no idea who is laughing and where in the crowd, so unanimous is the audience’s enjoyment of each and every comic utterance. Very successful as it was in New York in 2017 and 2018, if premiere audiences’ reactions are anything to go by, this is a show made for London. The confluence of Cale’s scripting, Leigh Silverman’s direction, and Crudup’s virtuosic performance are here perfectly met with a savvy more than sympathetic audience. Step in out of the unending rain and forget your cares, indulge in Harry Clarke’s instead.

Playing until 11th May, https://www.theambassadorstheatre.co.uk/shows/harry-clarke

Reviewer: Kira Daniels

Reviewed: 13th March 2024

North West End UK Rating: 5