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Review: Le Grand Mort, at Trafalgar Studios

A wooden performance from Julian Clary deflates an otherwise intriguing and powerful script

29 September, 2017 — By Sabrina Dougall

James Nelson-Joyce as Tim, and Julian Clary as Michael, in Le Grand Mort. PHOTO SCOTT RYLANDER

UNFORTUNATELY Julian Clary remembered his lines but forgot how to act. Not one part of his body conveyed a subtle insight into protagonist Michael, a singleton in his 40s who has invited a young stranger to dinner after an intense first encounter at a bar.

A stainless steel kitchen in an unknown time and place is the setting for the two-man play’s entirety.

The first scene, where a straight-backed Michael chops onions, seemed to go on forever, and it’s not until attractive young Tim (James Nelson-Joyce) swaggers on stage that we learn why the audience is watching him stirring the frying pan. A skilled and detailed performance from Nelson-Joyce who starred in About Time and Little Boy Blue outshines Clary’s by far. Tim plays violence-tinged mind games to steal control from aspiring writer and necrophilia enthusiast Michael in his own home.

With a frozen jaw and forehead, Clary manages to deflate an otherwise intriguing and powerful script by Stephen Clark. Perhaps no one dared remind the seasoned television presenter to throw in a pause, a change of pace or volume, or a hint of emotion every now and then. A well-choreographed fight scene by Terry King added a kick of much-needed spice, but Le Grand Mort did not quite fit the term “dark comedy” or seem to know what it really wanted to be.

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