Tag Archives: Amy Rosenthal

“Henna Night” at the New Diorama Theatre

A strong revival of Amy Rosenthal’s Henna Night has just opened at the New Diorama Theatre. The scenario is a meeting between the jilted Judith and her ex-boyfriend’s new partner Ros, who responds to a desperate drunken phone call. The play focuses on women in love and packs plenty of observations into its less than an hour duration.

From a comically frosty reception, the women bond over hair tips and henna. It’s hardly a subtle conceit but it’s effective. This is an early work by Rosenthal and is perhaps too angsty and lacking in real drama: Judith’s heartache seems a touch juvenile and you never really doubt she’ll get over it soon. But, admirably, the play isn’t sentimental and rings endearingly true.

Henna Night benefits from the experienced direction of Peter James. The characterisation is fine and, working with two talented young actors, James does justice to this tight two-hander. Hatty Preston plays the “adorably flawed” Judith with sympathetic realism, and Nicola Daley accompanies her as the “dull, dependable” Ros, winning us over with her determined common sense. Both women have fine comic skills and hold the stage with ease.

Rosenthal is sensibly even handed, showing the love affair from both women’s perspectives and dissecting their relationship with the offstage Jack in a way we can connect with. We’ve all done the first love thing, so it’s interesting…if light. It’s a bit like that moment at the end of having a trim when the hairdresser holds up a mirror to show their work and everyone nods and smiles – in short, a stylish job that you should book in for.

Until 28 June 2014


Written 13 June 2014 for The London Magazine

“The Tailor-Made Man” at the Arts Theatre

Claudio Macor’s musical, just opened at the Arts Theatre in Covent Garden, is inspired by William ‘Billy’ Haines, a 1920s film star you’ve probably never heard of. Brazen about his homosexuality, Haines’ career was ruined by the man who created him – Louis B Mayer – who banished his successful films to the vaults and even destroyed his publicity photographs when Billy refused to enter a fake marriage and give up his “tailor-made” partner Jimmy. It’s a fantastic love story full of romance and glamour that will touch most hearts.

The piece, written by Macor as a play in 1995 and adapted with the help of Amy Rosenthal, has been embellished with lyrics by Adam Meggido, who also wrote the score with Duncan Walsh Atkins. It’s a sterling effort: the music is a highly competent tribute to the 1920s, the words sharp and funny, yet the story seems to overwhelm the musical potential so that the carefully constructed numbers never quite take off.

The cast’s acting is more credible than its singing (perhaps attributable to first-night nerves). In the lead roles of the lovers, Dylan Turner and Bradley Clarkson give strong performances and Mike McShane’s depiction of Mayer is highly satisfying. As the couple’s best friend, William Randolph Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies, Faye Tozer (of former Steps fame) reveals top-notch comic skills. There are also excellent turns from the supporting company, especially Matt Wilman as the studio’s long-suffering publicist, and Kay Murphy, who plays Pola Negri, lined up to marry Haines for the newspapers, who has the show’s best number, a hilarious lament for her tragic life.

A Tailor-Made Man offers some interesting observations about celebrity but is strongest in its honest depiction of the male couple’s relationship. Unafraid of being stereotypes, they went on to becomes Hollywood’s most successful interior decorators, designing the stars’ lives in a symmetry you’d hardly credit if it weren’t all true. The toll that prejudice and violence take on their lives is dealt with admirably and makes up for an occasionally overbearing sentimentality that both actors manage superbly. But the sometimes blunt approach, brave as it is, isn’t the happiest combination for a musical. You don’t leave with a spring in your step but rather a wish to see a revival of the original play itself.

Until 6 April 2013

Photo by Alastair Muir

Written 22 February 2013 for The London Magazine