Left – Briallen Clarke, Blake Erickson and Tony Llewellyn-Jones. Cover – Terry Serio and Tony Llewellyn-Jones. Photos – Patrick Boland
Griffin Theatre's Hollywood Ending is a theatrical experiment that pays off. Considering it went from being a blank page to being on the stage in the space of eight weeks, it is a remarkable and highly entertaining piece of theatre. It is well directed, wonderfully acted, and altogether a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Hollywood Ending is a pretty clear riff on Innocence of Muslims, an awfully written, incredibly racist film produced earlier this year. Director Don (Terry Serio), who has only really directed porn before, is hired to direct a Middle Eastern epic, written by Randy (Blake Erickson) and produced by Amy (Briallen Clarke), who promise far more substantial backing than they actually have. Don is assisted by his long time colleague Jerry (Tony Llewellyn-Jones), and approaches his successful filmmaker daughter (Caroline Craig) for help, but is shocked when she tells him that his new job might not be as innocent as it seems.
The weakest part of this play was not so much Don – Terry Serio does a great job – as Don's motivation. I found it hard to believe that he could read the script for this film and genuinely believe there was even a possibility of treating it as a Lawrence of Arabia meets Bad Lieutenant, no matter how desperate for work he was. Just because he's a pornographer shouldn't mean he's stupid (even if that stupidity is wilful). This is, I feel, where the hasty theatremaking process showed itself. With a longer timeframe, Don's motivations might have been workshopped and been given more nuance – his blind spot here was really glaring.
However, this is the only place in the play where I felt its hasty origins were showing. It is a fantastically entertaining piece of theatre – sharp, funny, and topical. Briallen Clarke is great as the too-sweet-for-words, butter-wouldn't-melt, shill-for-Jesus, seems-like-the-innocent-flower-but-is-the-serpent-under't Amy – while all the cast are great, she was the star for me. Tim Roseman's direction is precise and CJ Johnson's writing... I wouldn't have guessed he'd had such a small timeframe if I hadn't already known. This is a great play: a real triumph of the Rapid Write model. I particularly enjoyed the terrible sex puns used as porn titles, but the whole thing is great, and the immediacy of it is really appealing.
I wholeheartedly recommend Hollywood Ending. Don't go and see it just to see how the Rapid Write scheme turns out – I mean, you can, but I can tell you now you'll probably be impressed. Go and see it because it is a genuinely good and completely entertaining piece of theatre, mode of creation aside. Really wonderful stuff.
Arts Radar, Theatre503 and Griffin Independent present
Rapid Write: Hollywood Ending
Or, How a Washed Up Director Made a Crappy Movie that Almost Destroyed the World
by CJ Johnson
Director Tim Roseman
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre | 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross
Dates: 21 November – 15 December 2012
Bookings: 02 9361 3817