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Brighton Fringe 2015

Larry by Mark Burgess

Chancel Productions

Genre: Drama

Venue: The Lantern Theatre


Low Down

"It’s 1975 and Laurence Olivier begins the day in his New York hotel suite. Recovering from a series of life threatening illnesses, he has feared he would never work again. A surprise telephone call from film director John Schlesinger has banished those fears. The part being offered is the sinister former Nazi Christian Szell. Olivier’s co-star is Dustin Hoffman and the film: ‘Marathon Man’. This stunning one-man show takes us into the world of one the greatest classical stage actors of all time."


Larry is the story of the end of Laurence Olivier’s 60 year career on stages and screens throughout the world.  Keith Drinkel as Olivier recreates the star’s reminiscences at the end of his life about  his past appearances in American and British theatres, his successes and his sense of frustration at the things he can no longer do as he ages. This is a verbal portrait of a man and his art and the immense courage it took for him to fight the toll of advancing years and continue to produce the high quality performances that made the man an icon of the London stage.

The monologue reflects  the strength of Oliver’s determination to achieve and continue achieving success after success on the stage.  “Scratch an actor and you have another actor underneath,” he says.  And ”If there is one thing I know, it is how to make an entrance.”  As he talks about his failing body, his waning strength and resistant memory, he says “When you have the strength you’re too young; when you have the experience you are too old.”

The hour is divided into two acts.  The first is 1975 when Olivier is in a hotel suite in New York and the second in 1983 in his country house in Sussex where he is packing to go on tour and cannot lift the case he wants to pack for the trip.

Anyone who has followed Olivier’s stellar career will love this piece because it reveals his impressions about so many of the marvelous and memorable productions that made him famous.  The direction is particularly good.  Daniel Findlay has choreographed Drinkel’s movements across the stage so that the performance is never static.  The pace is excellent and the only thing that is missing is the sense that Drinkel is really Laurence Olivier.  He delivers his lines impeccably but he simply is not Laurence Olivier. He lacks the force and the presence of the great actor he is portraying.   One does not feel the power and the despair of his character. 

The audience seemed to enjoy the piece and certainly related to the anecdotes about the movies and plays Olivier was in.  The script itself seemed solid enough.  It just needed a better sense of reality. We were told about the man, but I didn’t feel he was before us. Still, a recommended show for the material it presents and solid script.