The Last Romantic

This show revolves around a fairly well-trodden premise: idealistic young creative seeks similar to make beautiful art with. Whether a black and white ‘let’s put on a show’ romp starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, Ricky Gervais’ Extras, Episodes, Tootsie... or all the way back to A Midsummer Night’s Dream… the idiosyncrasies of the theatrical world have always played well to audiences and proved rich pickings for a poised satirical pen.

Hilarious, wise, preposterous and all too real

In Patrick O’Brien’s The Last Romantic, our naïve utopian is James Wright: a sweet, strong-jawed English actor navigating the absurdity of the Hollywood machine. Trudging through the soul-destroying rounds of auditions, zero-respect gigs and humiliating personal appearances makes him realise that it’s not just that he wants to retain some semblance of professional integrity in Tinsel Town; but that he will also need to reshape the inexorable grip exercised by the hollow, the superficial, and the bankable in order to make that happen.

James’ odyssey through the echoing vaults of shattered dreams is made more bearable by the fortuitous appearance of Julia Smith who soon becomes his writing partner. And together, they begin to take on the establishment…

This is a well-constructed piece which fluctuates between the absurd and the naturalistic much in the way that the Arts world itself does. There are nods to great works, lowbrow rubbish, sex pests and reality TV: and, in a strong cast, a particularly outstanding turn by Lizzie Hart as a foul-mouthed theatrical agent.

Artsy types always enjoy luxuriating in a meta analysis of their own world, and The Last Romantic has particular resonance at an Arts event where audiences – especially at a time of collective belt-tightening – can tend to frequent known commercial entities seemingly irrespective of merit, leaving emerging talent desperate for even the smallest sniff of a paying bum on a seat.

But the dramatic world is one of the few industries in which talent, work ethic, qualification and experience do not result in assured promotion; and this production focuses on how the ladder-pulling elite remain fixated on a somewhat sinister insistence that new talent must ‘pay dues’. These dues seem to involve a professional prostitution which our hero manages to resist… but at a cost which is redolent of a modernised, televised, coked-up 1984.

The Last Romantic is an energetic piece which capitalises on the bounce and glow of its cast; and it is beyond refreshing to see such anarchic young performances where confidence in their own abilities is not, in fact, wildly misplaced. It is hilarious, wise, preposterous and all too real: and above all, a warning to us all that following dreams may result in living a nightmare.

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Reviews by Rebecca Vines

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Since you’re here…

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Described as 'remarkable' by The Boar, The Last Romantic is a sprightly-sharp satire that questions the philosophies and practices of modern Hollywood. When semi-successful actor James Wright meets dogged writer Julia Smith, the two kindred spirits immediately connect and decide to team up and force some change in a film industry plagued by idiocy, vulgarity and misogyny. Featuring their violent agent, a belittling talk-show host and a pair of mindless producers, James and Julia attempt to fight against the colourful caricatures that dominate their world to get their voices heard – and their demands met.

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