Stuart King

Review: HARRY CLARKE at Ambassadors Theatre

Following the death of his drunken father in a tractor accident, an awkward and un-sporty Midwesterner who has adopted an affected British accent since childhood, moves to New York City in search of a more cosmopolitan vibe. And now that he is here, why should he bore New Yorkers with his real back story when by developing the fully-rounded and louche persona of HARRY CLARKE to accompany his existing London brogue, he can embark on a fresh and exciting new chapter in his life.

Harry Clarke - LondonBilly Crudup in Harry Clarke at the Ambassadors Theatre. Credit Carol Rosegg.

There are definitely strains of The Talented Mr Ripley and Six Degrees of Separation in David Cale’s tightly scripted monologue which sees uptight and out-of-water Philip Brugglestein, leave his backwater, and in the process transform himself into a devil-may-care, and confident alter ego who seduces men women and mothers, when the mood takes him. Often played from the angle that the monster has a life of its own and is both unpredictable and uncontrollable, our protagonist finds himself exasperatedly shouting at mirrors when reflecting on his recent outlandish behaviour and the seemingly spontaneous and outrageous claims to notoriety which blurt unchecked from his mouth. At any moment, the entire deception could unravel, but there is never any real sense of jeopardy or consequence. Instead, Billy Crudup’s mellifluous and well-honed comedic delivery of a range of characters circling in Harry’s orbit, provides a feast for the ears and eyes as he subtly deploys a multitude of interchanging voices, accents and personality traits enabling the captivated audience to accompany him on his journey. This is storytelling as high art and delivered with considerable style and flair.

Directed by Leigh Silverman, HARRY CLARKE may be a one man show, but Billy Crudup’s superb delivery, renders it a bright and brilliant addition to London’s West End.