Writer: Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer
Director: Steve Marmion
Reviewer: Tom Ralphs
Somewhere in Iceland a movie is being made. It’s the 7th in the series of Vulcan movies and the first to feature Gary Savage, a one-time Tarantino favourite with six Oscar nominations to his name. But Savage isn’t in a lead role, he isn’t even a named part, and worse still, he has a smaller role than his fellow actor and sort of rival Hugh Delavois, even though Delavois is only playing a butler. If you put the two men together in Delavois’ trailer egos will clash and a play will emerge. Vulcan 7 is that play. A dark comedy that is neither as dark or as comic as it could have been.
Written by, and starring, Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer, the play opens with Delavois (Planer) entering the trailer bemoaning the disappearance of Savage (Edmondson) and questioning his casting to Leela (Lois Chimimba) the runner for the movie. After Delavois goes off to make up, Savage appears and once he has realised where he is, and that the costume and prosthetics he is wearing are for the film, he is equally dismissive about Delavois.
The first act of the play is largely made up of the two sparring with each other, as professional rivalry spills over into personal insults and only the shared resentment of Daniel Day-Lewis’ success unites them. There are some clever and funny lines but it feels a bit like it’s treading water, and only hinting at the desperation that might lie behind the bickering.
The second act is far more rewarding as the personal failures and disappointments emerge and the comedy takes a darker turn with Savage revealing his inability to forget lines from past plays and Delavois speaking of the misery of living in a flat opposite an advertising board that constantly displays the faces of actors that are far more successful than him.
While all this is happening, the filming is getting further and further delayed as the same volcano that led to cancelled flights across the world in 2010 is about to erupt again and Leela has to deal with this as well as the two actors. It adds an end of the world feel to the setting and the story, further strengthening the existential crisis the two men are facing. That the crisis is rooted in their profession as actors provides for a lot of knowing jokes, but little self-deprecation, and the play never really seems to achieve its full potential as either a truly dark tragi-comedy or as a straight comedy lampooning ageing actors.
In trying to be both of these things it doesn’t become either of them. Edmondson expertly manages to be both the drunken, politically incorrect actor out of touch with the post-Weinstein world and the serious actor laid low by his failure to live up to his own ideals. Planer is the more solid, reliable b-movie actor whose self-restraint means he doesn’t get carried away with success but also represses his frustrations rather than letting them come to the surface. You long for them to write a script that can really allow them to bring all of this out and really explore the character’s they’ve created and the world they’re writing about.
Vulcan 7 is good, but it could have been a lot more than it is.
Runs until 10 November 2018 | Image: Nobby Clark