Writer: Michael Conley
Music: Luke Bateman
We meet Crispin Cox – actor, performer – sat in his dressing room, as he prepares to go on stage.
Crispin (played by Michael Conley) reveals that he will be appearing in a musical based on the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. This will be especially challenging, as Crispin will be playing all the roles himself.
Dabbing on face powder, Cox is readying himself for a night of 18th century scandal and intrigue. He tells us that the production has changed a great deal since its early workshop days. It was meant to be fully-casted, with his “very best friend” and fellow actor, Freedman (voiced by Luke Bateman) as the lead.
But events have taken over – as Crispin informs us, Freedman has been cancelled. A popular, in-demand actor, Freedman’s career has hit the skids as a typing error in a theatre programme had resulted in a small, but significant, oversight. Mistakenly adding a ‘d’ to his real surname (Freeman) ‘Freedman’ then failed to correct the error, and continued to let colleagues assume he was Jewish.
It was enough, reports Crispin greedily, to get his friend cancelled. Cox tells us that he is stepping in to save the show from ruin, although it becomes clear as he takes call after call, this may not be the dazzling premiere he hoped for.
Filmed entirely on location, the camera remains largely static, fixing on Crispin’s face. The stress begins to show, as Crispin takes calls from his agent (or ‘Crappy Agent’ as he has her listed in his phonebook). He rings the production’s designer to check if Freedman’s costume has been altered for him to wear. It becomes clear that the creative team behind Les Liaisons have already moved onto other projects.
Conley (also the writer), paints Cox as a fiercely ambitious actor, whose star has been lagging behind his friend’s for some time. This is a chance for vindication, a clutch at stardom. Cox repeatedly plays an audio clip of Freedman singing the final song from Les Liaisons. He visibly smarts at the beauty of Freedman’s voice.
Cancellation starts as a drip-feed of showbiz gossip, but as we sit with Crispin longer, an archness begins to emerge. His perceived lack of success has made Crispin bitter and bruised. His verbal asides tackle the cancel culture, and how quickly celebrities can be sidelined. Cancellation develops into a bigger argument, with Crispin’s memories of repression and censorship from his past, encouraging us to think about cancellation more deeply.
As a one-man show in itself, Conley’s portrayal of Crispin Cox – with his overinflated ego and lack of insight – is wonderfully entertaining, and very funny. Bringing together these comedic elements with a sharp, satirical edge, Conley’s script is packed with observation and masterfully put together.
As Crispin’s night takes another unexpected turn, the mask guarding between reality and perception begins to fail. While this is a comedy of errors (in judgement), Crispin Cox may not be the best actor, but he’s one hell of a story-teller.
Available here from 29 July 2021