Le Grand Mort at Trafalgar Studios starring Julian Clary: First night review by Stephen Vowles

The late Stephen Clark wrote this play especially for Julian Clary and it’s clear from the opening monologue that Julian was treasuring and savouring every word. Mr Clary is something of a revelation in this play and nothing short of sensational, pulling off the role with an air of confidence and commitment that was superb to watch. He plays Michael an unsuccessful architect relegated to designing a banquette for the lobby of a Premier Inn hotel. He meets Tim in a local bar and invites him for dinner, cooking him pasta puttanesca, ‘the whores’ pasta’ and the cat and mouse games begin. It’s very much opposites attract but who is manipulating who? The banter between Michael and Tim played by a very striking James Nelson-Joyce is edge of the seat stuff, as the sexual attraction between them builds and builds. The play touches on death and the way death changes our perceptions of people and increases their standing including Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana and Jesus Christ – described in the play as the original sex God.

Clarke tackles necrophilia, lust, bestiality and incest all designed to create a reaction in the audience. The comedy is brilliant with both Clary and Joyce giving well measured and impressive performances. There are also moments of gorgeously grotesque dialogue with Clary at one point saying to Joyce: “You require a lot of oxygen”.  We get a crisp delivery of this smart, poetic and rhythmic script plus some visual treats, such as when Joyce removes his clothes and puts himself against a version of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. This is 90 minutes of stunning theatre. There are definite moments in Clarke’s script that remind you of Joe Orton, the same attitude towards the macabre and his dark humour. This is a wonderful study of emotions and the mess you can get into if they remain unchecked. Modern theatre at its best and very sexy too.


Le Grand Mort runs to the 28 October at Studio 2, Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall SW1. Box office 0844 871 7631. 

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