Close Up

I enjoyed Odd Eyes Theatre’s #Haters last year, so I was really happy to be invited to see their next work-in-progress, Close Up, at the New Diorama Theatre. Written and directed by Emilia Teglia, the piece looks at censorship, ethics and their place in media, in a manner both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Grace is an elderly former showgirl persuaded by young filmmaker, Lauren, to be interviewed about her showbiz past. As she reminisces on camera about her life and the values of mid-twentieth-century society, she is unaware that Lauren and her producer Jason might want to put together something quite different out of her words. When Grace is subsequently invited to take part in a reality TV show, she responds in a hugely unexpected way.

From the beginning I wasn’t sure how the play was going to go, but I found myself drawn in. There are excellent performances from Gilly Daniels as Grace, Sophie Delora-Jones as Lauren, and, particularly impressive, Andrew Goddard in the dual roles of Jason and Grace’s friend Kenneth Williams, the actor whose ghostly presence comforts and sympathises with Grace.

The work makes use of video projections, which add another layer of theatricality, and allows us to witness how the documentary develops apart from Grace’s words and stories. It also features Goddard in Kenneth Williams-style performances making use of Polari language, which links again to the concept of censorship. I have to admit that I had to Google what Polari language actually was – a private slang commonly used by gay men at a time when censorship was rife and gay relationships were illegal (always good to learn new things). If I was being picky, I would like to have seen more in-depth exploration of Grace’s friendship with Kenneth, but I appreciate there are limits to what can be done in an hour-long piece.

Overall, I was really impressed with this thought-provoking, funny and moving piece of theatre, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Close Up becomes in the future.

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