What a shambles. What a complete and utter shambles. And how entertaining.
Hang on, scrub that last sentence. Complicit wasn’t in the least bit entertaining.
The only entertaining aspect to the evening was the discreet yet mesmerising, scandalous earpiece which Richard Dreyfuss was sporting because – so rumour has it – he does not know all of his lines.
Indeed, according to one source (who, of course, can not be named) a highlight of at least one early preview was the sound of David Suchet loudly calling “prompt” on Dreyfuss’ behalf which – as our Deep Throat conjectured – surely can’t have done much for dressing room bonhomie.
But the West End Whingers are proud to report that they can now reveal that there is in fact a wholly legitimate reason for Dreyfuss’ inability to remember his lines.
It is, quite simply, that every line of Joe Sutton‘s play is utterly forgettable. Indeed, the wonder of this whole sorry saga is not that Dreyfuss can’t remember his lines but that Elizabeth McGovern and David Suchet can remember all of theirs.
Complicit is a tedious, aspiring-to-worthy (but unworthy of being staged) half-written play which hits the audience lightly about the head with plodding arguments played out between people for whom the audience cares nothing.
There is almost certainly a good play to be written on the use of torture by the USA and another one on the protection of journalistic sources but unfortunately this isn’t either of them and it certainly isn’t both of them.
Kritzer (Richard Earpiece) is a journalist facing a Grand Jury over an article he’s written about the US administration’s use of torture post 9/11 He faces the prospect of a lengthy jail sentence if he doesn’t reveal his source.
Staged in the round most of the “drama” involves Kritzer’s dilemma as he discusses his plight with his wife played by Elizabeth McGovern. She is very dull, but to be fair she doesn’t have much to work with, her primary purpose being to make Kritzer’s choice more “agonising” by whining on about his obligation to his family.
The third “character” is his lawyer (David Suchet, the only one to bring any pep to this wearisome evening).
So as the three characters circle the stage we’re often left looking at the back of the characters’ necks**. This is despite Dreyfuss’ “acting” which is dominated by a constant pacing of the stage like a caged tiger man who can’t remember his lines. He also does some arm waving and at least he’s constantly on the move. Perhaps his earpiece is of the kinetic variety and he has to keep moving to keep it charged?
Director Kevin Spacey has only himself to blame really. As artistic director he must take responsibility for choosing this play. Sutton seems to have two signature styles which compete as to which can be the most irritating. The first is repetition. Repetition? Repetition; the other is ellipsis and by god it’s…
On the plus side, it’s all over in one hour and 40 minutes including the interval; it just feels a lot longer. Perhaps if they cut the interval the audience could be out even earlier giving them more time to pull it to pieces in the bar.
Even more thrilling was that the Whingers ran into someone after the show who “knows the person who made Dreyfuss’ earpiece”. They can not, of course, reveal their sources as they are far too principled. But if threatened with the torture of sitting through Complicit again they’d spill the beans in an instant.
To be fair, one or two of the Whinger’ entourage were more enthusiastic (and will not be receiving invites to future outings) and a handful of the audience even ovated, but one should bear in mind that this was meant to be the press night, and a party after the show was going ahead as planned.
So this wasn’t your typical West End audience, they were probably friends of the Old Vic (good enough friends to have been given the right start time) and of Mr Spacey himself, judging by the number of people Kev was going up to and saying hello to before the show and during the interval. Heck, he even put his arm round one of the Whingers’ group then brushed against him again in the interval. It seems Spacey knows everyone, or at least wants to.
Certainly there were many people there from the Norman Conquests and in fact Andrew was sitting two seats’ away from Lesley Manville and engaged in conversation with her briefly at the interval to complement her on the size of her handbag.
He didn’t actually know it was Miss Manville he was talking to, but Phil patiently explained who she was later on. The Whingers last saw her in Her Naked Skin which was the Whinger’s post that first introduced the Fram Scale (though not because HNS was quite that bad). Sadly, Phil was reminded that even though only mid-January it was already time for the Whingers’ infamous tool to receive another airing.
Oh well, we look forward to the real reviews which – at this rate – should come out a couple of days before the damned thing closes.
* Despite a “Full House” sign outside the Old Vic last night there were plenty of empty seats. Perhaps they were the seats of others with a 7.30 start time on their tickets.
** In Jonathan Croall’s article in the programme about sitting in on a rehearsal for Complicit Spacey is quoted: “And I think that after The Norman Conquests the audience will be a little bit used to the idea that you can watch a scene and for a time have someone’s back to you, and actually not lose anything. It can be a very strong thing: it’s what happens all the time in real life”. Well, no actually it doesn’t, the Whingers usually look at people when they’re talking to them and if they’re watching a play they want to see the actor’s face.