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Star Quality

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
2 stars
Noel Coward knew a thing or two about theatre by the time his
back-stage set short story was published in 1951. With both absurdism
and the Royal Court social-realist revolution about to turn the British
stage on its head, Coward's glory days were over, and his own
dramatised version never quite grew legs. Just why Christopher
Luscombe's adaptation has managed to stay in the commercial repertoire
for more than a decade, then, is a mystery. Or at least that's the case
if Joe Harmston's flat production is anything to go by.

The clue is in the title. Amanda Donohoe plays a leading lady on the
wane who runs rings around both the wet behind the ears playwright who
fawns over her and the been-there-done-that director who's nominally in
charge. It's his 'personal assistant' who really calls the shots,
however, as the writer is sweet-talked into making changes to his
masterpiece so the dame can still appear grand.

In what's essentially a vehicle for Donohoe, you kind of get the point
of the play's bitter-sweet barbs about an industry that thrives on
celebrity casting, over-familiar routines and irrelevant froth. Coward
was a master of it, after all. The trouble is, to present a play about
dead theatre, it needs to possess life enough itself to make its
subject shine. Noises Off and 42nd Street do this with various shades
of hilarity, chutzpah and high camp which Star Quality can only flap a
limp wrist at in recognition of its lot. The fact that five of the
twelve people (and a dog) onstage needn't actually be there at all
speaks volumes. Life imitating art imitating life has rarely looked
duller.

The Herald, November 19th 2011

ends

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