THE ACTOR'S NIGHTMARE at London's Park Theatre 90
        Kate Sumpter and Meaghan Martin: photo Ali Wright

The Actor’s Nightmare comprises six shorts by Tony Award winning playwright and Actor Christopher Durang, best known for his 'outrageous' and often 'absurd' comedy and includes the UK premier of some of his finest works. The specially crafted stand alone piece, presented by 3 hearts canvas and Over Here Theatre Company offers a disturbing but also (occasionally) extremely funny parody that spares nothing and no-one. From Euripides to Tennessee Williams, with some Beckett and Shakespeare thrown into the pot, the barbs are sharp and witty and offer an insight to the eccentricity of the entertainment industry in LA and New York, with occasional digs at HBO.

What is it like to face your audience with a memory gone blank, to feel the daggers of your fellow actors as they await their cue? To offer a carefully scripted monologue only to have forgotten the much needed notes and to then bluster your way through the agony of performance or to find yourself on stage with no clue as to why you are there? These are the experiences of Accountant George Spelvin who is mistaken as an understudy and forced to perform in a play of which he has no knowledge and primly twin-setted Mrs Sorken, complete with dinky handback and pearl necklace, whilst she delivers her monologue in the short of the same name. Desire, Desire, Desire attempts a poke at Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire and there are further allusions to much studied and performed playwrights in Business Lunch At The Russian Tea Rooms, Woman Stand-Up and Medea. Nothing is spared and all genres are parodied

Having been welcomed into the intimate space of Park90 to the glorious tones of 'Brush Up Your Shakespeare' and 'Lullaby of Broadway' we are invited to 'step into a nightmare'  and absurd journey. We are onlookers, voyeurs to the shallow and neurotic experiences of the artists who are desperate for fame and glory.

There are particularly striking moments and performances by this committed ensemble. At the start, Mrs Sorken, played by Kate Sumpter with delicious comic timing and comfortable interaction with her audience, set the scene for what was to follow. Strapping ourselves firmly into our seatbelts, we prepared for what promised to be a rocky ride but disappointingly did not always deliver.

There were moments of hilarity, none more so than in 'Medea' where the cast's enactment of the Greek chorus was achingly side splitting. Whilst irreverent in the extreme, it would be nice to think that Euripides offered a wry smile from his distant cloud. Against this was the disturbing portrayal of the stand up comic who relied on her laughter machine at her destitute gigs (Meaghan Martin).

But, disappointingly there were also scenes that just did not hit the mark. Yes, we got the allusions to Tennessee Williams and the repeated cries of 'Stella, Stella, Stella' but these were overplayed and became tedious. Similarly so the parody of Endgame which fell flat. With no interval, the final sections of this 100 minute production were beginning to bore and I found myself wishing for the end. After such a strong beginning, there were too many stilted junctures which lacked lustre and failed to resonate. Such a pity!

Featuring an ensemble cast of Meaghan Martin, Kate Sumpter, Stefan Menaul, Adrian Richards and Layo-Christina Akinlude,under the direction of Over Here Theatre Company's Director Lydia Parker, The Actor's Nightmare was an interesting piece albeit one which offered smug, self congratulation as you identified the different pieces that were parodied.

Note: 3 hearts canvas (founded January 2019 by Meaghan Martin/Oli Higginson),pair each production with a charity - on this occasion The National Autistic Society.

At London's Park90, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP

Dates: 16 July – 10 Aug 2019  
Age guidance: 12+

Access Performances
- Dementia Friendly Performance, Mon 22
July 15.15
- Relaxed Performance, Sat 27 July 13.00

Mon – Sat Evenings 7.45pm, Thu & Sat Matinees

Standard £18,
Concessions £16.50, Child (Under 16) £13,
Park Up members (16 – 23 July) £10,
– buy 10 tickets, get the 11th free.

020 7870 6876

*10% telephone booking fee, capped at £2.50 per ticket.