REVIEW: ‘Mr. and Mrs. Laughton’, Oran Mor, Glasgow

 

Photos of PPP by Leslie Blackppp1

Michael-Alan Read’s play Mr and Mrs Laughton has had a life before, as part of Glasgay Festival. This time around, however, the play comes to Oran Mor as part of PPP, before playing next week at Sherman Cymru, Wales.

It’s a moving, elegiac dissection of the fractious marriage between actors Elsa Lanchester (Abigail McGibbon) and Charles Laughton (Steven McNicoll). Very much from Elsa’s viewpoint, it is narrated with asides from her pompous, but troubled genius husband, who struggles to hide his homosexual tendencies from his wife/sparring partner/mentor in theatre.

The newspaper prurience as the press learn of the marital difficulties suggest nothing much has changed in Hollywood, or indeed theatre. Apalled by a bad notice for his Prospero, Laughton sinks into depression, and spends less time with his wife, who clearly adores him, before taking many lovers , including a long-standing relationship with a young man called  Peter, who nurses him right up to the end when he develops cancer.

McNicoll is a great, blustery yet vulnerable presence as Laughton, but McGibbon, a fine comic actor in David Ireland’s sex comedy Can’t Forget About You is a little off, sadly, as Elsa, who seems a tragic and defeated figure from the very first scene.

A beautiful, intelligent play, with so much to say about the Hollywood system and how it sought to keep women down and identities submerged, this deserves better than McGibbon’s flat delivery. But the flashback scenes of their intial courtship and flirtation, and bickering over notices, are full of the energy and tenderness of the original iteration.

(Lorna Irvine)

 

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