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Pretty Boy



“The Stage and Television Today”   -   8th June, 1972, PWB


By any of the laws of averages, probability, and most especially of human patience, all of the people surrounding Benny, the pivotal character in Stephen Poliakoff’s “Pretty Boy”, given a Sunday evening performance at the Royal Court on June 4, would have abandoned him, or had him committed well before the end of the first act.  And a good thing too!  We could all have gone home a good ninety minutes earlier.  As it was, we were lumbered with boring Benny and his adjustment problems -- most of them at full volume -- for a little over a seemingly interminable two hours.


As the play begins, Benny is moving into a luxury apartment in an ultra swish London square.  Quite how he come to be there is difficult to see.  It is equally difficult to work out Benny’s origins, social attitude, and sexual ambiance.  All that seems clear is a mock-revolutionary concern for destruction.  Not that he is capable of destroying anything himself, except, maybe, people’s liking for him.  But as he is so obviously a perfectly hideous person in the first place their dislike isn’t so much a new thing as a coming awareness.  For Benny is loud, crude, unkind, cruel, and, in the playing of Michael Pennington, certainly more than eccentric.  Finally he alienates everyone and ends, sobbing, and, to my mind, completely off his rocker.


In a crude play, dominated by an overloud central performance, two players stood out, Jill Meers, as an average, basically lonely and dull middle-aged woman, played with tact, and a find understanding, and Nicholas Willatt, as a gay would-be revolutionary, acted with a quite and subtlety too much lacking elsewhere in the play.  The director was Colin Cook.

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