Home » London Theatre Reviews » I’m Gonna Marry You Tobey Maguire – Southwark Playhouse | Review

I’m Gonna Marry You Tobey Maguire – Southwark Playhouse | Review

Following its premiere in New York last year, Samantha Hurley’s farcical I’m Gonna Marry You Tobey Maguire crosses the pond. The smaller studio space at Southwark Playhouse is transformed into the bedroom of a fourteen-year-old girl. Designer Rodrigo Hernandez-Martinez has created such an intricately thought out set that not only draws us into the world of the play but really elevates the production.

Tessa Albertson (Shelby Hinkley), Anders Hayward (Tobey Maguire). Photo credit Manuel Harlan.
Tessa Albertson (Shelby Hinkley), Anders Hayward (Tobey Maguire). Photo credit Manuel Harlan.

Britney blares out as we enter and immediately absorb an unhealthy amount of Tobey Maguire posters and magazine cutouts. Plastered across the stage area and onto the walls around the audience, it feels more like a shrine than a regular teenager’s habitat.  A cornucopia of 90s and early 2000s paraphernalia greets our eyes. A Furby (remember those?) and a Barbie doll sit alongside copies of Cosmopolitan. There are flashing fairy lights and pink heart-shaped rugs. Oh, and a pole to which a chain and handcuffs are attached!

The Britney music comes to an abrupt halt. The lights fade. ‘Tobey Maguire’ is groggy as he slowly regains consciousness and realises where he is. The last thing the Hollywood star remembers is going under at his dental appointment and he now finds himself trapped in a basement – his own image staring back at him at every turn.

Enter the frantic and frenzied Shelby in a wedding dress with bouquet in hand. Her eyes are enlarged. Her grin menacing. It could be Miss Havisham in her younger years. At fourteen, Shelby is the founder and president of the Tobey Maguire fan club. She’s even posted him her baby teeth, as you do. Today, they shall marry and if he has a problem with that, not to worry. Shelby has a manual titled Kidnapping for Dummies. It informs her that Stockholm syndrome will soon set in, and he’ll fall for his captor.

Today any attractive person performing a five-second dance on TikTok can be considered famous. Influencers are everywhere and Warhol’s prophecy has materialised at a rapid pace. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, people had to truly earn their place on magazine covers. It’s interesting that the play takes us back to this time when Hollywood stars held more agency. Fan obsession and the idea of buying into what the media presents people as is one of the main themes here. Shelby learns the hard way that the Tobey Maguire in her basement is far removed from the Tobey Maguire on screen. Not only is he an alcoholic but he smokes and has a ‘potty mouth’. Add to this the fact that on many posters it’s his face but the body of Jake Gyllenhaal and Shelby soon understands why people say you should never meet your heroes.

Tessa Albertson has a real challenge. Aside from having to convincingly portray a fourteen-year-old, the performer must sustain an air of nervous mania without caricature overriding character. At times she does feel like too much of a stereotype – screaming out her words at breakneck speed (causing some of them to be lost in translation), staring wide-eyed and guffawing unexpectedly. However, after some acclimatizing, we soon find ourselves believing we are in the company of this teen. Hurley’s script offers hints at the character’s back-story throughout and by the end of the play we have some understanding of why Shelby is the way she is.

Anders Hayward excels as Maguire. He flits from fear to indifference. He convinces as an addict in withdrawal, twitchy and on edge as he craves a cigarette or in blissful ecstasy as his eyes roll back after inhaling from a paint can. He shows insecurity and displays sensitivity towards his tormentor but also adopts the persona of a Hollywood Star when required. It’s a multifaceted turn, which also makes use of some impressive physical work.

Completing the cast is a comedic Kyle Birch, who multi-roles between Shelby’s unseen mother, a larger-than-life real estate agent and even a walking, talking poster of Tobey Maguire. Yep, it’s that kind of show. Unpredictable, surreal and absurd but with some acerbic observations about celebrity culture and using fantasy to fill the voids within our reality.

Unfortunately, the pacing prevents it from achieving its potential impact. While there is an abundance of laughs to be had and some shocking moments, at one hour forty-five minutes sans interval the play is simply too long. This could easily be condensed to allow for a tighter, more structured piece without losing its erratic energy. Hurley should be commended for creating this unique piece of theatre. With some revisions and refinement, it undoubtedly has scope to flourish into something greater.

3 Star Review

Review by Jonathan Marshall

Cast: Tessa Albertson (Shelby Hinkley), Kyle Birch (Brenda Dee Cankles), Anders Hayward (Tobey Maguire)

Directed by Tyler Struble
Set Designer: Rodrigo Hernandez Martinez
Lighting Designer: Holly Ellis
Sound Designer: Jamie Lu
Costume Designer: Reuben Speed
General Management: Katy Galloway Productions
Casting by: Harry Blumenau Casting
Production Management: Chloe Stally-Gibson

To cope with the absence of her father, neglect of her mother, and ridicule by her classmates, eighth grader Shelby Hinkley has put all of her time and energy into the only thing that matters in 2004: Spiderman. When leading a devout online fan club proves insufficient to her needs, Shelby decides to risk it all for love, kidnap famous actor Tobey Maguire, and marry him in her basement. Her fantasies of happily ever after start to crumble as she realizes Tobey may not be the charismatic, heartthrob actor she thinks she knows.

Jacob Stuckelman of Watermark Productions presents
By Samantha Hurley
Southwark Playhouse Borough
28 June to 10 August 2024


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