Found111, Charing Cross Road, London (****)
Anything these days involving Andrew Scott is bound to draw the crowds. Sherlock’s Moriarty on the BBC, Bond’s nemesis (one of them) in Spectre, ever since he first appeared in a clutch of fringe productions (my first viewing of him was around 2004 in the Royal Court’s A Girl in a Car with Man), he commands attention. There’s something dangerously unnerving about him, even in his vulnerable moments. So put him into a dark and murky, claustrophobic room in a derelict West End building in Charing Cross Road (once home to Central St Martin Art School) in a play about New York eccentrics at the beginning of the 20th century, light the blue touch paper and stand back.
The award-winning Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out, Three Days of Rain and The Dazzle) writes, somewhat ingenuously, of this 2002 work: `it is based on the Collyer Brothers about whom I know almost nothing.’ The Collyer Brothers turn out to be one of New York’s richest urban myths about two reclusive, compulsive hoarders and brothers, who died in 1947.
Greenberg takes this is a starting point for an extraordinary attack on conventional living and ode to heightened sensibility as well as a study in fraternal love, bleached by guilt, anger and frustration.
In real life, Langley Collyer (Scott) took care of his increasingly blind brother, Homer. In The Dazzle it is David Dawson’s blazing performance as Homer who is the carer for Scott’s narcissistic, cruel, bordering on the autistic, Langley. Watching these two slugging it out is to see two young actors at the peak of their powers – hypnotic, inter-dependent.
Greenberg’s writing effervesces, if self-consciously so with literary, cultural and theatrical references (at one point it becomes very Chekhovian as Joanna Vanderham’s siren heiress, Milly, all eyes for Langley, returns two years later in disarray like the young actress in The Seagull) whilst its penultimate scene takes its influence directly from Beckett.
The real interest though in Simon Evans’ excellent, atmospheric production is in watching the developing dynamic between Scott and Dawson with Vanderham gallantly bringing up the rear in this queasy ménage a trois.
A cult in the making. Dazzling indeed.
The Dazzle runs to Jan 30, 2016 at Found111
Review first published with Reviewsgate, Dec 2015