11 October 2016

Great drama with The Last Tycoon at Tabard Theatre

Having discovered Tabard Theatre only in the last year I have managed to get back a few times and I it is now one of the few theatres that I need to find a reason not to go there rather than the other way round. The theatre space and the quality of the performances is the main reason for that and it helps a lot that it is very close to Turnham Green station, only three stops from Richmond, and is situated above a decent pub.

I was looking forward to visiting the pub again, it is also called the Tabard unsurprisingly, as I knew that it had had bit of a refresh and the public bar needed it. I was somewhat shocked to see that the pubic bar had been untouched and the only refurbishment had been to the main dining area, called the Library. This had been the best part of the pub and the refurbishment had made it much worse. It was less attractive without the library motifs and most of the tables had been replaced with high benches and stools without backs. Not a welcoming or comfortable place to eat. Like everybody else in the room, I avoided one of the benches and found a small old-fashioned table to eat my vegetarian fish (halloumi), chips and mushy peas.

The company behind The Last Tycoon were Ruby in the Dust and anybody who takes their name from a Neil Young lyric gets my vote. I had seen a few of their shows before, which also helped.

One of these, Gatsby (seen twice) was also based on a F Scott Fitzgerald book, another good omen.

The Last Tycoon took us into the world of the movies where a high profile and very successful producer, Monroe Stahr (conveniently pronounced "star"), was juggling commercial pressures with his desire to make a film of Romeo and Juliet (a happy ending was requested!) while fighting off the advanced of two women with mixed success, and dealing with possibility of the screenwriters forming a union and going on strike for better pay and recognition.

This heady mix of plot elements gave the play its richness, the character of Stahr gave it its heart. and the large cast of interesting characters gave it its strength. There were so many characters that most of the actors played several roles.

Bouncing off Stahr were love interest Kathleen Moore who was on the rebound from an affair with the King of England (!), his business partner Bradogue Brady who veered more towards the financial than the artistic, and Brady's young daughter Cecelia who had known Stahr since she was seven and now fancied that she loved him. One of the scriptwriters loved her. There was a lot going on.

The story unfolded nicely in a beautifully crafted play that maintained the tension while allowing some romantic moments to soften the mood. I was engaged and entranced.

The Last Tycoon knew what it was trying to do and succeeded in every aspect to produce a play that thrilled, entertained and then shocked.

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