Stuart King

Review: LIFE WITH OSCAR at Arcola Theatre

The promotional material for this rambling monologue is a picture of a guy in his ‘silver fox’ years, clutching an Oscar. However, beyond the cleverness of that enticing device and the promise manifest in the title, very little of genuine creativity, wit, or interest is revealed in Nick Cohen’s effort.

Life With Oscar - Arcola TheatreNick Cohen in Life with Oscar at Arcola Theatre. Photo G Taylor

Cohen, who by his own admission is something of a wannabe director/actor, (with some dire efforts to his name) begins his cobbled hotchpotch of vaguely cinema-related experiences sat beneath a large dining table as his extended immigrant Jewish family flock and fawn around film producer Alexander Salkind — he of the notoriously usurious Salkind Clause — and listen to discussions about efforts to land “…first double Best Actor Oscar winner Marlon Brando to play Superman’s father…”. As any devotee of Oscar trivia will know, Frederic March, Gary Cooper and Spencer Tracy had all achieved the Oscar double long before Brando had won his first for 1954’s On the Waterfront, but the realms of fact and theatrical embellishment appear relatively fluid in Cohen’s convoluted tale, despite several references to lines being verbatim.

Though commendable, his efforts to fill the space and engage the audience through his overplayed delivery of a story which amounts to a stint spent Hollywood flat-sitting, have decidedly limited entertainment value. An obscure early 1970s documentary short filmmaker Robert Amram is the closest Cohen (and we) get to actually rubbing shoulders with Oscar and even then, by the end we’re told Amram’s wins were due to something of a loophole in the AMPAS rules.

One is left with the feeling that as a film teacher Mr Cohen might feel overshadowed by his students, and a compulsion to dazzle them with Hollywood-laden anecdotes has led to this effort. Unfortunately, most who move in film/theatre/TV circles (or indeed 5 Star Hotels) will have infinitely more juicy, shocking, funny and inspiring tales to tell, than this well-meant but rather meagre effort.