Review: The Dazzle, Found111

“Tragedy is when a few people sink to the level of where most people always are”

For all the trumpeting of the finding a new theatrical space at Found111 – the former Central St Martins School of Art building at 111 Charing Cross Road where The Dazzle is playing – I’ll tell you what they haven’t found, a half-decent pre-theatre experience. It’s all very well cultivating a hipsterish air with your pop-up bar and swanky cocktails but at the point when over 100 theatregoers are being corralled into a space which barely fits them, with no FOH controlling the crowd or at least guiding them into a queue as there’s unreserved seating to boot, it makes for a deeply unpleasant beginning to the evening.

And given that ticket prices are £35 (the earlybird £10 seats have long gone though day seats are being released from 6pm each night) it’s a shoddy way to do business and one which fails to recognise that for many, the show starts long before the curtain rises. After the crushing rush to get into the actual theatre, it was hard not to be a little underwhelmed by the space – there’s nothing that particularly commends it to theatrical use and certainly nothing that pertains to the play in question, so it’s a little baffling as to why the Michael Grandage Company and Emily Dobbs Productions chose it in lieu of one of London’s many, many theatres. 

With such awkward beginnings, Richard Greenberg’s play was fighting a losing battle from the beginning and sure enough, The Dazzle did anything but. Inspired by the real-life tale of two New York brothers Homer and Langley Collyer who lived a hermit-like existence in their mansion, Greenberg spins a hugely verbose tale of tangled family ties and troubled genius. Langley could be a hugely talented pianist but his eccentricities mean he can’t escape obsessing about the little details in life whilst older brother Homer is equally ill at ease in the real world and so finds succour in aiding and abetting his sibling’s idiosyncracies. 

Greenberg is clearly in love with the idea of high-functioning but socially inept individuals and so has crafted reams upon reams of florid dialogue to demonstrate the ostensible beauty in feeling the world so deeply. Andrew Scott delivers this with consummate skill in Simon Evans’ production here but is faced with an impossible task in trying to shape a character of note out of the writer’s stylistic choices. As Milly, the woman who shakes up the Collyers’ lives, Joanna Vanderham is equally challenged to convince that her visits are anything but dramatic contrivances but David Dawson fares a little better as Homer, ultimately a little more tragic. 

So we were left definitively undazzled and though the pre-show business had prompted the disgruntled mood, I just don’t think I would have liked The Dazzle with even the cheeriest disposition beforehand. It just isn’t my kind of play and though there’s much to admire, particularly in the technical demands of Scott’s performance, the show just didn’t make me feel anything. 

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Marc Brenner

Booking until 30th January

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