Matthew John Curtis is famous. He’s the young, handsome star of a successful, if critically unloved, sitcom. Everyone loves him. Well, everyone except his brother Alex, who thinks he’s the true source of Matthew’s adored ‘persona’, and his girlfriend Theo, who thinks he’s a hypocrite for continuing to do work he repeatedly says he hates, while rejecting any opportunity to do something different. So, initially at least, the Matthew we see is very much through their eyes; the self-important actor who plays just one character — himself — and, despite evidence to the contrary, is simply too afraid to do something different.
Separately, Alex and Theo entice the young, somewhat naive journalist Caitlyn to spend time with Matthew in order to research and write up an expose on the ‘real’ man behind the star image. For Alex it’s about revenge, an opportunity to at long last escape from the shadow of their mother’s favourite son. For Theo it’s about forcing Matthew to become more truthful to himself and to ignore the advice of his numerous fans. As this worthy, if not radical play by David K Barnes and David Leon goes on to prove, we all need to be careful what we wish for, as we might get it — an increasingly trite truism, perhaps, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
The main cast — Freddy Goymer (Matthew), Jack Wilson (Alex), Ellie Allum-Marshall (Theo), and Jenny Jope (Caitlyn) — are adept at revealing the hidden layers of their characters as the story progresses, with Jope, in particular, notable for her growing understanding of Matthew’s situation and the true motivations of Alex and Theo. The supporting ‘chorus’ of four actors who play all the other roles are adept at providing the broad brushstrokes of character required, even if most of them are little more than one-dimensional cartoons.
The staging is extremely basic — a necessary evil in these days of multi-show venues — but while the cast generally maintain a real momentum between scenes, there are the occasional moments of prop-setting-up where this falters. Also, the opening performance was marred by a few miss-timed lighting cues that did the cast on stage no favours — though to their credit it didn’t seem to put them off their stride. Overall, this is an interesting, if not outstanding, examination of what it’s like to be close to celebrity.