Les Dennis seems to be making a habit of appearing in shows about the television industry. His last role to stick in the mind was as himself in the Ricky Gervais comedy Extras. He returns to the television set, albeit on stage, in the dark comedy Marlon Brando's Corset which, following a successful premiere at the Edinburgh Festival, opened at Greenwich last night. Matthew Amer squeezed himself into the press night.
"Because people know you, you matter"; the short but sweet description of celebrity proffered by director Alex (Mike McShane) to the cast of Healing Hands, a hospital drama set to receive all manner of accolades at the BAFTAs. Of course, when he is telling the cast this, it is to impress on them the importance of not being sent down for murder and disposing of the body they are sharing a room with.
How the body got there is another tale entirely and revolves around the cast – vacant, pretentious leading man Will (Jeremy Edwards), jealous, less-good-looking supporting star Jack (Jim Field Smith), flirtatious, manipulative Sarah (Kelly Ryan), and the relatively normal Alyson (Jennifer Tollady) – and the show's put upon writer Nick, played with a heavy heart and a generous helping of world-weariness by Dennis. While Nick really wants to produce great art, he is stuck writing sensationalist storylines for Healing Hands and listening to the bickering of the show's celebrities. It doesn’t help that the whole notion of celebrity is one that makes him even more depressed.
Guy Jones's script is packed with hilarious biting comments and sarcastic one-liners, yet throughout the comedy, the depression of Dennis's Nick cuts through. McShane's Alex is big, brash and bold, full of his own self-importance and always bossing his celebrities who, unsurprisingly, seem unable to do anything without having it explained to them thoroughly first. Image and reputation are everything in their world and their reaction to the death is unanimously selfish.
Marlon Brando's Corset lays the cult of celebrity worship clear in front of us in all its shallow and ridiculous glory but, with its own celebrity casting, it also suggests that it’s probably here to stay.