REVIEW: Exit Stage Left, Lady Mabel Theatre

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HIGH expectations surround this new piece at Ecclesfield School, bound for an Edinburgh Fringe run in August.

And it is ambitious work, not least being that potential bear-trap of a play within a play. Well conceived cut-backs are often key and head of drama/writer Ben Smithard pulls that off.

Former Hollywood director Greg Thompson seeks a comeback with a show about a film star who covers up his fatal running down of a girl while returning from an Oscar win.

But Greg’s behaviour becomes more fractious and withdrawn as he guides his ramshackle cast of showbiz misfits and ex soap stars towards a critically acclaimed opening night. As rehearsals accelerate towards the suicide of the film star’s wife it becomes apparent inspiration for his work was maybe closer to home than he has let on.

Exit is built on a dark confessional theme and sturdy issues, including aspiring fame over duty, but it derives several laughs via the ineptitude of the internal cast, notably Greg’s assistant Stu, although Jason Wigley can afford to indulge his role more. The dashing Matthew Jacobs is well cast as calculating film star Stefan Wilson and Hannah Thomas his submissive wife Olivia, ultimately destroyed by their tragic secret.

The production would benefit a nip and tuck in places and maybe over-explains itself, but Smithard conjures some memorable scenes along the way, notably Olivia’s final breakdown as the dead girl’s mum makes a televised appeal and when Greg and Stefan jointly ponder the suicide note that sucks at their soul. Concludes tonight.