I Shot Dirty Den

Pavel Douglas is a liar. For the actor, who comes into this show on the back of an impressive on-screen CV, is neither as desperate for work as he makes out, nor is he the original killer of Eastenders’ very own resurrected miracle. Yet once this treacherous act is forgiven, what remains is a quite stunning mixture of tear-jerking autobiography, gripping character moments, and impressions that would make Bremner blush.

Larger-than-life figure Douglas commands the stage as he launches into a self indulgent rant covering his inability to find new acting parts, anecdotes about his past, and his fury that his one greatest claim to fame, as the character who ordered Den Watts’ watery demise back in 1989, was crushed with an “Alwite, Princess” five years ago. Yet his bitterness at Leslie Grantham’s return to the Square is tempered with an emotional recollection of his Polish dad, who was left behind when Douglas was dragged by his mother to Scotland as a boy.

The interspersing of character impressions, which shows off Douglas’ ability to cloud the differences between reality and fiction in an instant, also reveal the man’s incredible capacity to be engaging and spellbinding. His anger at his agent’s failure to get him jobs ahead of Clive Mantle – “Maybe you can phone me up sometime with something I might actually get?” – helps his quest to be the stage version of Nick Hornby, whose response to career successes would be to complain that they are merely temporary.

Not that Douglas is a whinger. His persona also charms, entertains, even occasionally provokes hilarity, never more so than when he muses on the fact that his voiceover work will make his voice “the last to be heard when the reactors shut down”.

This is a masterful gem of a performance, taking the audience on a fast-paced journey through Douglas’ life and invoking a wide range of emotions. Eastenders knowledge is not necessary – in fact, if Albert Square was anywhere near as hypnotically entertaining, then we’d all be sitting in the Queen Vic in our minds, simply begging for more.

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The Blurb

TV star Pavel Douglas really did shoot Dirty Den. Hilarious characters, reflections of a struggling actor, and evocative scenes from his Polish childhood in a funny and poignant performance from this award-winning actor-director team. 'Wonderful' (Venue).

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