Writer: Chris Woodley
Director: Bryan Hodgson
Tommy On Top is almost the funniest show in town. A bedroom farce might be the unlikeliest genre in which to discuss the homophobia in Hollywood and Chris Woodley’s play certainly lacks subtlety. However it delivers on laughs aplenty.
Tommy Miller is in LA for the Academy Awards. He’s been nominated for Best Actor for his role in Splash Mountain, a minor drama starring Adam Driver. He would be a dead cert for winning if it weren’t for the rumours flying around about his sexuality. If the truth comes out, Tommy may not get the chance to lift that Oscar.
He keeps his boyfriend secret. Only Tommy’s sister Molly and his agent Eddie know about George’s existence. Molly, a YouTuber intent on trying to bag a million followers, has no problem with her brother being gay, but Eddie, gay himself, believes that if Tommy comes out it’ll be curtains for both their careers.
This may sound as if Tommy On Top will be a serious examination of the difficulties that LGBTQ+ actors face in the movie industry, but don’t let the synopsis fool you. This is a farce with some glorious slapstick. People get locked in closets and pushed off balconies. Towels drop strategically off Tommy’s waist and the hotel bedroom’s lights keep going on and off. The first half is a riot with the visual comedy coming as thick and fast as the puns and double entendres.
If only this could be sustained into the next half, then Above The Stag Theatre would have a real hit on its hands. Instead, the play can’t quite retrieve all the fun found in the first half, no matter how hard they try. And Boy! does Megan Armstrong try hard! As ditzy and drunk Molly, Armstrong, gives it her all, and steals every scene. Even her soapboxing is hilarious and her balloon section is the highlight of the show.
Alex Hulme has the tough job of making Tommy seem like the dimmest actor of his generation, but he handles it well, and soon settles into his role. Lucas Livesey is his musical theatre-obsessed boyfriend who has some very camp one-liners while Bridgette Amofah is nicely acerbic as the celebrity agent who wants to sign Tommy to her books. As her rival, Chris Lane is uproarious as Eddie, and looks terrifying with a pink handbag on his head. Becky Sanneh gives a good turn as Kiki, the celebrity reporter, but her arrival in the second half doesn’t detract from the fact that show has lost its way.
David Shields’ design conjures up the age of Noel Coward, but Tommy On Top is not as classy as a Coward comedy: and for good reason. Instead we have a boisterous play for now, even if it does peak too soon.
Runs until 29 August 2021