Play makes quick work of real world
"Boom" ... Briallen Clarke and Blake Erickson in Hollywood Ending. Photo: Patrick Boland
Griffin Theatre, November 23, until December 15
C.J. JOHNSON'S play is the result of an eight-week blank page-to-stage process originally developed at London's Theatre503 by its co-artistic director Tim Roseman. The idea is to create a theatre of the moment that is able to respond quickly to world events.
Here, Johnson draws on the controversy sparked by the release of a trailer promoting Innocence of Muslims, the laughably crude yet ultimately dangerous film that unleashed a deadly wave of protest across the Middle East in September.
He doesn't delve too deeply into the debate on censorship and artistic responsibility that still swirls around it. Instead, Hollywood Ending operates as a broad satire on American culture and those desperate to make their mark on it.
It centres on Don, an Australian filmmaker living in Los Angeles. A recovering everything these days, his main contribution to the industry has been in porno films. We're talking pioneer of chocolate/vanilla girl-on-girl here.
Don badly needs a break and when he's offered the chance to helm what appears to be a low budget, straight-to-DVD action flick, he pulls out all the stops. ''It's Lawrence of Arabia meets Bad Lieutenant!'' Don says, pitching for his life.
''Boom!'' says screenwriter Randall (he says it a lot). Don is hired. But it soon becomes apparent his vision isn't meshing with that of the film's shadowy backers. Moreover, an ever-shrinking budget, which can't stretch to professional actors, or even a camel, means corners have to be cut harder and harder.
A cracking cast brings all this to life, with Terry Serio as Don, Caroline Craig as Amy, his not-entirely-essential daughter, Blake Erickson as the man/boy screenwriter Randall, and Briallen Clarke as Laura, the film's outwardly bubbly, inwardly steely producer. Tony Llewellyn-Jones brings fey warmth to the story as Jerry, Don's long-suffering production designer.
All hit their marks fast and hard with Roseman unfolding the story at a tremendous clip. Short scenes are punctuated with speedy resets and funky beats (Steve Toulmin) which - when everything is timed right - gives the play a racy, percussive edge.
It is not surprising Hollywood Ending feels scratchy at times. Mostly, though, it is solidly made and well fleshed. You won't be much enlightened but you will be entertained. Writers with a lot more time on their hands have certainly achieved less.