Theatre itself has always proved a rich source of material for playwrights. Backstage antics, over the top ‘luvvies’ and the often surreal workings of the industry giving writers plenty of inspiration.
Paul T Davis has tapped into this vein to create The Green Room, three monologues that interlink and overlap as we peer into the word of showbiz agents and variety acts.
Events centre around theatrical agent Billy Starshine. Billy is Mr Showbiz himself, having managed a stream of acts over the years. As the industry changes, though, Billy finds himself somehow out of fashion. When a good-looking young lad – Billy’s favourite kind – enters his office wanting to find stardom, Billy is instantly smitten and throws himself into training and promoting the boy.
Although Billy states his interest is purely professional, there is something darker lurking just behind the spotlights and greasepaint. Promotional photoshoots seem to concentrate on swimwear but Billy maintains his professional air.
As the years pass the (always unnamed) lad begins to distance himself from Billy, getting his own roles in fringe productions. Scandal breaks, restraining orders are issued and, in the end, Billy is left alone to wallow in his memories and watch his protégé on TV.
One of Billy’s former acts, Annette Bone now runs a retirement home for former theatricals. She spends her days caring for her guests and dusting her numerous dog ornaments, souvenirs of her various permutations of dancing dog act. Annette was, and perhaps still is, deeply in love with Billy, although he never reciprocated that love.
Rounding up the trio is former office mate of Billy Sidney Levant. Levant is one of the changes to the industry Billy resisted. Instead of traditional variety Levant is a successful porn baron, making his fortune from a series of successful x-rated films.
It is perhaps this third section that fits less comfortably overall. While the tales of Billy and Annette are well interlinked and complement each other, Levant’s tale sits less comfortably and at times seems tenuous.
The monlogues themselves are well performed. Peter Phillips sets the tone well as Billy. Utterly convincing as an old-school theatrical agent and manager, he portrays the battle to keep to professional standards while, underneath, desperately in love with his protégé. It’s a love, of course, that he would never act upon, instead resorting to admitation from afar. There may be something dark and unsettling beneath the surface but Phillips’ performance ellicts sympathy rather than disgust.
Sheila Garnham also gives a strong performances as dog mad Annette. Behind the disco dancing pooches is a woman driven by passion. Her love for Billy may be unrequited but she’ll never give up hope. It’s a well observed performance balancing outwardly respectability with barely hidden lust.
Ian Quickfall’s Sidney is perhaps the less rounded performance of the evening but that may be more down to the material. His character is hard to warm to, despite suffering loss but is delivered with conviction and clarity.
Director Sally-ann Scurrell stages the piece with pace against simple but effective staging. Some work on the third segment would pay dividends but, overall, this is a warm and affectionate look at an era of theatrical history that has gone forever in favour of instant fame.