Reviews roundup: Billy Crudup in Harry Clarke 2.8★

Billy Crudup in Harry Clarke. Photo: Carol Rosegg

The American star of The Morning Show Billy Crudup makes his West End debut in a monologue written by David Cale which has already been a hit in the US. Mr Crudup plays among other characters a shy gay American who, as well as pretending to be English himself, invents an alter ego, a Cockney ‘geezer’ called Harry Clarke.

[Links to full reviews are included but a number are behind paywalls and therefore may not be accessible]

Clive Davis in The Times (4★) described the play as ‘a shaggy dog story, and a thoroughly entertaining one.’ ‘Leigh Silverman’s direction is tightly observed yet unobtrusive’,’ he went on to describe Crudup as ‘utterly hypnotic’. ‘It’s very funny indeed,’ agreed Sarah Crompton at Whats On Stage (4★). She continued: ‘It’s a real tour de force of storytelling and performance, an old-fashioned pleasure with a modern twist.’

While feeling that the playwright could dig deeper into the psychological issues he raises,’ Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times (3★) praises ‘the slippery skill of Cale’s writing’ as well as ‘Crudup’s consummate, magnetic performance’. Chris Wiegand in The Guardian (3★) found ‘the script lacks the motor of a thriller and there is little at stake in this slight story’ but praised ‘Crudup’s vocal skill’. The Stage‘s Sam Marlowe (3★) took a similar view: ‘Leigh Silverman’s production is smartly paced, with a bravura solo performance from … Billy Crudup. But the play is effectively a series of Escher staircases leading nowhere, ingenious but inconsequential.’ Some reviewers (see below) criticised Crudup’s way of speaking English accents but for Andrzej Lukowski in Time Out (3★), the plot is such that ‘it makes sense that he sounds like an American doing an English accent’. He concluded: ‘it’s trashily entertaining and Crudup is magnetic.’ Billy Crudup gives ‘ a truly riveting performance’ agrees Claire Allfree in The Telegraph (3★) but, as to the play, ‘while, with its high-gloss blend of excess, madness and fabulous wealth, it flirts with the trappings of a thriller, there is precious little actually at stake’.

Fiona Mountford in the i (2★), advising her readers to save their money, criticised Billy Crudup: ‘a self-satisfied and showboating sort of performance’ in which his English accent ‘makes him sound like a strangulated minor royal’. She didn’t like the play much either: ‘the script, full of holes where plot logic ought to be, offers almost no sense of jeopardy.’ The Independent‘s Alice Saville (2★) agreed about the English accent: ‘his tones drifting from East End to Essex to New York like the world’s most incompetent Uber driver.’ The script disappointed her too: ‘the promised darkness never quite arrives, and nor does any kind of underlying message or shock twist.’ The Standard‘s Nick Curtis (2★) also criticised the script: Cale’s play, he said, ‘has almost no psychological depth’ but ‘Never mind the thin, shaggy dog-story of a plot: this monologue is all about Billy Crudup’s mercurial, showboating performance.’ He did agree with his fellow two star reviewers that Billy Crudup’s English accents were ‘terrible’ but, he added, ‘It doesn’t really matter.’ The theme continues over at Broadway World (2★) where Alexander Cohen criticises ‘a meandering script’ and was thankful for Billy Crudup: ‘Without him the show would crumble.’

Average critic rating (out of 5) 2.8★

Value rating 37 (Value rating is the Average critic rating divided by the most common Stalls/Circle ticket price. In theory this means the higher the score the better value but, because of price variations, a West End show could be excellent value if it scores above 30 while an off-West End show may need to score above 60. This rating is based on opening night prices- theatres may raise or lower prices during the run.)

Harry Clarke can be seen at the Ambassadors Theatre London until 11 May 2024. Buy tickets directly from the theatre here

If you’ve seen Harry Clarke, you are welcome to add your review and rating below (but please keep it relevant and polite)


Be the first to write a review

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *