The complex and often turbulent relationship between one of the 20th Century's most famous couples, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, has provided much fodder over the years for tabloid newspapers and celebrity biographers alike and in 2013 the interest shows no sign of abating. Following on the heels of the recent BBC TV drama Burton and Taylor starring Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter, Dhanil Ali's one act play The Liz and Dick Show provides us with a glimpse behind the scenes of this tempestuous relationship.
On the set of the 1966 film Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The pair bicker, gripe, taunt fall out, make up, try to outwit and outdo one another and test their relationship to its very limits. We get a glimpse of the bitterness, disappointment and disillusionment that Burton felt as Taylor earned the plaudits of the critics and public alike for a role he had to persuade her to take and one which he coached and cajoled her through. How he sacrificed his own ambition to support her and how Taylor - often regarded as a lazy, easily bored, spoiled princess - was under no illusion about her abilities and spent most of her life racked with insecurity. Most of all, though, we feel the love: the volatile, explosive and all-consuming love between them.
Ken McConnell and Lydia Poole memorably capture these two screen legends. McConnell's perfectly judged performance is a tour de force, capturing the ferocity within Burton's soul masterfully - that he both looks and sounds like Burton only adds to the illusion. Poole is riveting as Taylor, teetering on a knife edge between pussycat and lioness, she spits poison and passion in equal measure, the queen of emotional game play.
We can never know what went on behind closed doors but Ali's play is compelling and wholly convincing. An accomplished piece of writing, the script is taut and not a word is wasted. The hour flies by in the wink of an eye. A spellbinding and utterly riveting play performed by supremely talented actors. I can't recommend it highly enough.