In a touching tribute to television icon, Larry Grayson, Chris Mellor paints the picture of the kind and camp comedian who played host to the Generation Game throughout the 70s and 80s.
Unfortunately, I was a twinkle in my father’s eye at this moment in time (a metaphor which doesn’t need too close-a scrutiny, thanks) so in terms of being able to contextualise this piece and fully appreciate the references, I struggled.
However, the piece was far from lost on me. I think an audience member of any generation will warm to a script with such an affectionate portrayal; Grayson is presented as an uncertain and unwell older man, full of apprehensions about returning to the stage for one last performance.
Mellor’s script has moments of levity in terms of brief musical numbers, throw backs to Larry’s old skits or songs and knowing looks to the audience. Again, I am sure more contextual knowledge would have given me a slightly greater appreciation of these moments but this was certainly not my main grievance with this play.
The dynamic between Ian Parkin and Lee Peart, our on stage Larry Grayson and his spiritualist friend Mark, was sadly lacking. There was little charisma between the two and what is presented in Mellor’s script as a dynamic, co-dependent and extremely nuanced relationship is depicted as a slightly awkward, extremely unlikely and dry exchange of lines by Parkin and Peart.
Individually the pair performed their parts perfectly. The moments where Peart is left on stage after Parkin (AKA Grayson) departs give a touching insight not only into his admiration of the man he was working for but also highlighted the struggle of his character with his own sense of gender identity, dressing up at one point in drag but then embarrassedly, even ashamedly, taking off the garments once the euphoria of lipstick wears off.
Similarly, Parkin delivers a really powerful piece of acting at the play’s close where he doesn’t even speak, only hears words read from a letter and becomes emotional to the point that Parkin was still wiping away tears for the bows.
The issue with this piece lay irrevocably in the dynamic between the two actors and this seriously marred what would otherwise have been a really interesting and heart-warming piece of theatre.