‘Dying On Stage’ – review

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'Dying On Stage' by Ed Chapman
The Liverpool Actors Theatre Studio

Thursday 26th April 2012

Dying On Stage is the first of two short plays written by Manchester based Ed Chapman who with Leo Appleton recently formed Hawthornwaite Productions; the aim being to bring new theatrical productions to the public. Chapman and Appleton first met whilst at college over two decades ago ”“ a chance meeting in early 2011 resulted in the creation of the production company.

The Liverpool Actors Theatre Studio is an intimate venue - there are no more that 70 seats, as such every member of the audience gets an up close and very personal delivery by those on stage.
For 'Dying On Stage' this intimacy was particularly successful - the play, set initially in the mid 70's focuses on the sole character of Roy Stacey; Roy is the nation's top TV game show presenter, an overly jovial and possibly loathsome character; we are on set at the penultimate show of a successful series ”“ he appears to have it all and with more on the way, throughout the performance we are told that Roy is expecting a telephone call from “across the pond” ”“ CBS are about sign Roy whose fame and fortune will become meteoric ”“ however all is not roses for Roy who finds himself the subject to the axe as the TV company look to reign him in ”“ Dying On Stage witnesses Roy's private meltdown become very public.

Watching ”˜Dying On Stage' was an engaging experience; the audience are also Roy's audience as he presents his quiz show, however when the camera's stop rolling we move to Roy's dressing room where after each show he relaxes with a bottle of gin; the gin causes Roy to reflect on his position ”“ he accepts that his show is just tired and formulaic; his catch phrase “Oh Boy” and the accompanying red braces are equally as worn, he confesses that his publically strong marriage is a sham, his relationship with his children; his son in particular is dysfunctional, and as he drinks he comes to accept that he himself is the cause of this ”“ his drive to achieve firstly success, and then his efforts to maintain his fame, before realising what the cost of this was.

And then he takes a phone call, to learn that he is the subject of a sex allegation ”“ there's no credence to it, it's a tawdry attempt by TV executives to blackmail him and force him from the airwaves
Appleton presents Roy Stacey with immense feeling, watching him you experience a range of emotions ”“ there is humour, albeit a dark humour and those of us old enough to recall the 70's will instantly recognise the references to other celebrities of the time ”“ you will also feel for Stacey; Appleton delivers his performance with pathos, for all of Stacey's failings you can't despite initial reservations help but like his character, this aided by the Chapman's text which challenges us all to question our own motivation for ”˜success'

Stacey uses the final show to deliver a scathing attack on his employers, his bosses, even his audience; he appears to literally go into meltdown live on TV.

A sudden time shift, and Stacey now in his early 80's recall's the entire incident, how his accuser later admitted it was all a fabrication; but that didn't ultimately matter as Stacey himself chose to walk away, he looked into himself and realised his pursuit of recognition has led him to be unrecognised by those that mattered most to him; and in that lesson there is something the majority of us can learn.

Ed Chapman is a playwright worthy of your attention.

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