Irrelevant tells the story of Millie Grable (Debbie Chazen) who’s a never quite made it actress turned successful Hollywood agent who has the likes of Sidney Poitier and Sean Connery amongst her clients. Set around the early sixties, Grable tells her sad tale of just missing out as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind as the actress who got the part, Vivien Leigh is getting her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame across the road from Grable’s office on Hollywood Boulevard. She tells how she became an agent to the stars almost by accident but it seems things aren’t going well as one of the partners in her company is stealing all of her clients who are starting not to return her calls and her life is slowly unravelling.
And that’s the basic plot of this very slight, one-woman show. The play is full of clichés and theatre tropes as Grable talks to the audience telling us about her roller coaster life as she lurches from one crisis to another. Chazen is superb despite the fact that she has very little good material to work with. Her mid-Atlantic accent is perfect as a Brit who’s lived in America for years and we feel her pain as she prowls the stage smoking and drinking continuously. However, over the sixty minutes or so, not a lot happens and the ‘not much of a surprise’ ending is telegraphed about halfway through.
Also, the play is shot through with anomalies. Grable uses metres and kilometres as measurements, something the Americans have never done and people in the UK have only started doing recently. She also types her own letters – surely a Hollywood uber-agent would have a secretary (or two) to do that for her. Apart from addressing the audience, she also sets up a small movie camera to film herself which makes no sense as the film would have run out in a few minutes – maybe that and the typing are to stop the monologue from becoming too static and is probably also the reason she keeps going to the window to listen to what’s going on over the road – all very confusing. Also, Grable plays a 45rpm single of a scene from Hedda Gabler which sets up the play’s denouement which also seems implausible.
Keith Merrill who wrote the play, also directs and this is one of those occasions where the splitting of those roles may have been of benefit. Merrill also did the set design which is perfect for the times and apart from Chazen, is the star of the show. Another problem is that sound quality is very poor and at times it’s hard to hear the voices that are on the phone loudspeaker. Also, there’s a short bit of video, possibly of Grable’s screen test for Scarlett O’Hara but it’s so blurred as it’s projected onto a curtain, that it’s hard to tell.
Irrelevant ends with a bang which actually turns out to be a bit of a whimper. As the lights dimmed. nobody seemed to know if the play had ended and whether it was time to applaud. When they did it was all a bit subdued and surprisingly, for the first time in all my years of theatre-going, the cast (well Chazen), didn’t come back to take her bow – I have no idea why – very strange.
Review by Alan Fitter
The social media tag for the play is #AREYOUIRRELEVANT – unfortunately, I think Irrelevant the play, probably is.
She’s bitter. She’s twisted. You’ll love her!
Millie, a once-promising young actress, chewed up and spat out by Hollywood, is now one of LA’s top agents. The champion she never had. But living a dream vicariously through the stars she represents has a viciously entertaining way of taking its toll.
Irrelevant is a savagely amusing comment on how great artists systemically ignored and without reason simply slip through the cracks. Of how luck really is the leading player in our stories and how sometimes being a bitch is all we really have to hang on to.
By Keith Merrill
Debbie Chazen as Millie Grable
Writer/Director Keith Merrill
Composer Guillermo Názara
Producer Keith Merrill for Le Gallienne Theatre Company
Lighting Designer Alistair Lindsay
Le Gallienne Theatre Company in association with Seven Dials Playhouse presents the world premiere of Irrelevant
Monday 9th – Saturday 28th January 2023
Press Night: 12th January 2023, 7.30pm
1a Tower Street, London WC2H 9NP