Slice of life from another galaxy

Star Quality

Malvern Festival Theatre

****

PUBLISHED in 1967, Noel Coward's final play Star Quality is set behind the curtain of a London theatre putting on a new all-star cast production - Dark Heritage.  

The players are a collection of ruthless, lively, sensitive and fragile stereotypes which, undoubtedly, the playwright would have drawn upon his own experiences.  

In his diaries and autobiography, Coward is both astute and devastatingly articulate in his assessment of the different personalities of the leading ladies he worked with.

Behind the red-curtain glamour, Coward conjures up a wickedly observant satire of talent and treachery with his gallery of egotistical, characters.  In the eye of this melodramatic storm of egos is an innocent young playwright seeing his work being pulled apart and redesigned in front of his own eyes.

Liza Goddard is glorious in her role as self-absorbed, demanding, over sensitive, glamorous leading lady - Lorraine Barrie. 

She captures the insecurities of a high maintenance diva perfectly with her mannerisms, tone and style from the moment she first arrives on stage in silk peach loungewear, wearing dark glasses whilst clutching a small, cute fluffy dog, throughout her dressing room dramas to the moment the curtain drops at the end of the play within the play.

Liza Goddard as self-centred star Lorraine Barrie

There is a wonderfully camp performance by Anthony Houghton who plays the frivolous but wickedly manipulative and always charming director's personal assistance Tony Orford.   Through his speeches we can only imagine Coward's impressions of a compendium of leading ladies from his own repertoire of actresses portraying rampant theatricality with particular Star Quality.

There is a lovely performance by Gay Soper as Lorraine Barrie's maid.  She is singularly unimpressed by the antics of the conceited and self-absorbed behaviour of the cast around her, and good performances from a strong cast all round; Daniel Casey as the Director Ray Malcolm, Bob Saul as the virtuous if slightly naïve author, Sarah Berger as the over dramatic Marion Blake and Keith Myers as the temperamental leading man.

In this adaptation by Christopher Luscombe, the direction is tight, scene changes seamless and best of all, we see Noel Coward's brilliant command of wit, flamboyance, pose and poise come together in a humorous and solid production.  It was very well received by the audience in Malvern, with a constant flow of ripples of laughter. The period, mood and style is captured well, the elegant suits, fur coats, handbags, hair styles, endless cigarettes, languid, “luvvie” mannerisms and comic timing are all perfect ingredients for an enjoyable 4 star quality evening at the theatre. To 04-02-12

Johanna Brand 

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