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Review of The Tailor-Made Man at The White Bear Theatre

The Tailor Made Man - Photo by Andreas Lambi
The Tailor Made Man – Photo by Andreas Lambi

I’m a huge fan of the movies; the glamour of Hollywood, the outfits the A-listers wear, the stories surrounding their off screen-antics, so when a play promising the true story of the Hollywood studio system and its hypocrisy came along I asked to review it.

The Taylor-Made Man, produced by Eastlake productions is currently running at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington. A 25th-anniversary production, the piece was first seen in London in 1992, had successful runs in San Diego and West Hollywood, was commissioned by Thames Television for broadcast and was transformed into a musical in 2013 at The Arts theatre.

This production is brought to life by the talented Director, Bryan Hodgson. (I attended The Fellowship last year, also directed by this hugely talented rising star in the Off-West End theatre scene.)

So, the play, what can I say? I loved it. The script is beautiful, the costumes sublime, the lighting and music on-point and the execution is brilliant.

The set has been cleverly designed to enforce the filmic elements of the story. Transforming the stage into a camera film reel and studio lot. The set is basic and works very well to enhance the action of the piece.

The play is about a Hollywood A-lister that I’ve never heard of, Charles William, “Billy” Haines. After watching the piece I now know why I’ve never heard of him. Billy was a huge star signed to MGM studios, he started in both the silent movies of the 1920s and the talkies. Billy was ostracised and all of his movies deleted and removed from the records. The reason? He was gay and refused to leave the love of his life, Jimmie Shields.

This two-part production is hugely engaging. The two leads, Mitchell Hunt (Haines) and Tom Berkeley (Shields) are absolutely fantastic. They have amazing on-stage chemistry, their performances are really first class and I bought into them, their characters and their emotions. These two performers drove the production forward beautifully. I challenge you to watch this show and not fall in love with Berkeley’s portrayal of long-suffering lover Jimmy Sheilds. His fragility, his despair and his love for Billy is hugely powerful to watch.

The casting of these two is great, in fact, the full cast are very talented. The supporting actors, Henry Felix (Victor Darro), Peter Dewhurst (Hoper/Thalberg/Roderick) are also great and perform triumphantly in their supporting roles.

As a show, the piece is a definite success, it’s engaging, hugely entertaining with many laugh out loud scenes (in particularly between Hunt and Lawlor and Knowles and Flay), there is beautiful light and shade with some dark and sensitive moment. I was hugely moved by this production, I even shed a tear at the end. I left the piece hugely outraged that someone’s sexuality can make or break their career, that the Hollywood studio system can control a person’s life at this level.

Thank you for writing this story Claudio Macor and thank you for bringing it to life in 2017.

4 stars

Review by Faye Stockley

The Tailor-Made Man, the powerful true story about the Hollywood studio system and its hypocrisy and the star who gave up everything for the man he loved, is getting a 25th-anniversary production in London.

William “Billy” Haines was a popular silent screen MGM movie star who was fired by Louis B Mayer because he was gay and refused to give up his lifelong partner, Jimmie Shields, and marry the silent screen vamp Pola Negri. As punishment, his films were removed from release and sealed in the MGM vaults never to be seen again, and his studio photographs destroyed.

It was an attempt to erase him completely from movie history. But Billy and Jimmy’s turbulent, passionate love affair was to survive and lasted over 50 years…this is their story.

Cast
William “Billy” Haines – Mitchell Hunt
Jimmie Shields – Tom Berkeley
Howard Strickling – Edwin Flay
Louis B Mayer – Dean Harris
Miss Mariuon Davies – Yvonne Lawlor
Victor Darro – Henry felix
Carole Lombard/Pola Negri – Rachel Knowles
Hoper/Thalberg/Roderick – Peter Dewhurst

Creative Team
Director Bryan Hodgson
Producer Jamie Eastlake
Executive Producer Andrew Harcourt
Set and Costumes Mike Lees
Photography Andreas Lambis
Graphic Design Rebecca Pitt

LISTINGS INFORMATION
The Tailor-Made Man by Claudio Macor
White Bear Theatre
138 Kennington Park Road
London, SE11 
7th to 25th November 2017
https://www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk/

Author

  • Faye Stockley

    Faye read Theatre & Performance at The University of Warwick; she went on to work as a stage manager in London and Edinburgh. She had a year's stint on-board the MV Island Escape as a Social Host and Compere and now works full time as a Recruitment Manager for the broadcast, entertainment and media sectors.

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