A curtain raiser for Michael Conley’s new stage musical, Vanara (coming to the Hackney Empire), this show sneaks us into the dressing room of one Crispin Cox (Conley).
This thespian is vain, manic, and borderline monstrous. He’s prepping for a one man show, Les Liaisons Dangereuses The Musical, with eight characters, songs and “my name in the f-ing insert”.
The show has more than a hint of Nigel Planer’s Nicholas Craig ‘I, An Actor’ persona but with added pathos. It’s a 50 minute one act, a Dresser without the dresser, a spiky and bitchy riff on the perils of being in the business.
When the jokes hit, they are funny, and the tech used to build the ambience in which Cox operates. He’s a diva, dripping with malice and malaise. His agent “hasn’t got me a job in forever”. He’s reduced to gabbling to a producer on the phone when indignant bravado evaporates.
Crispin Cox is everyone’s backstage and on-stage nightmare, but you sense he might pull a bit of greatness out of the bag, given the opportunity. At the very least, within his own head.
Conley – who was also a hit in The Fabulist Fox Sister at Southwark Playhouse online – is at ease with a digital space. His Cox is an indiscreet gossip, a two-faced chorus performer, a regretful Pagliacci.
When cancel culture raises its head, mixed with a bit of political incorrectness, we have a hint of where this could go as a full-length play, with the characters discussed and unheard at the end of a phonecall might make an appearance.
Everyone is Cox’s “very best friend”, but he’s gleeful about stabbing them in the back. But his wit is scathing and this portrait is as sharp as you can get. He’s no ingenue grabbing at his big chance, but an old timer who can’t let reality in.
With just a hint of what’s around him – his dressing room mirror, a picture of Glenn Close, a rack of clothes, a phone, a show poster – all eyes are on Conley as he keeps this play moving.
You’ll have to watch to see where The Cancellation comes in, but it shows how the power of the internet can come back to bite you. And the ending is an absolute peach.
You can watch The Cancellation of Crispin Cox on 29 July at 8pm, and then on-demand until 29 August – book here.
Image credit: Jane Hobson
LouReviews received complimentary access to review The Cancellation of Crispin Cox.