Review: Product, Arcola Theatre

“In one day Europe will be destroyed: the Hague, the Reichstag, Tate Modern”

It’s always good to see an actor having a ‘moment’ and after blazing through the twisted sexual discoveries of How I Learned To Drive earlier this year, Olivia Poulet adds another solid gold success to her theatrical CV with Mark Ravenhill’s Product. An intense monologue originally performed by the playwright, a fierce indictment of a Hollywood culture that could have been ripped from the leaked Sony emails of last year, had it not been written 10 years ago. Plus ça change…

Poulet takes on the role of Leah, a film producer on the hunt for her next lucrative project and thinks she might have found it in Mohammed and Me, a jihadi chick-flick which she is pitching to an unseen film star. It’s intentionally atrocious, a woman who falls in love with a handsome stranger who happens to be pals with Osama Bin Laden – who makes a cameo himself – yet Ravenhill, and Poulet, ground this sharp-edged satire in a thoroughly believable version of movieland.

Leah may know that it’s all kinds of wrong but Poulet makes us see that she sold her soul long ago and so it’s a rip-roaring trawl through Hollywood clichés aplenty, with cheesy dialogue, paper-thin characters, lazy Islamophobia, outlandish plot devices all being acted out with an unwavering conviction, even as they’re deliciously skewered by the satire. Robert Shaw’s production wisely recognises the power of keeping things simple, which only heightens how effective a story it is. 

Running time: 50 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 23rd May

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