Wet Weather Cover @ Arts Theatre, London

cast list
Michael Brandon, Steve Furst and Pepe Balderrama

directed by
Kate Fahy

Veteran actor Oliver Cotton presumably had plenty of experience to call on when penning his debut play, Wet Weather Cover, though hopefully his own film-making experiences were a little less explosive than those on display here. The play, which was staged at the King’s Head earlier this year before transferring to the Arts, is set in a dilapidated trailer on the location of an epic movie being filmed in Spain. The story revolves around bored and frustrated actors Brad – an American – and Stuart – a Brit. Thrown together while waiting for filming to resume, the two wrestle with tedium, isolation and eventually each other as they kill time in this comic tale of egos, secrets and culture clash.

Michael Brandon – clearly having stashed a picture in his attic, since he looks barely changed from his Dempsey and Makepeace heyday – is splendid as Brad, the brash and vain American with the cultural side but the dark secrets, his swagger and charisma hiding deeper insecurities. Steve Furst is equally good as Stuart, the nerdy Brit with the chip on his shoulder, and in a press night audience filled with home-grown actors, his rant about the penury of the British film industry versus the hollow riches of Hollywood garnered rowdy applause.

Both men give engaging, physical performances, though both are slightly more at home with the expertly timed comedy than the occasional flash of serious emotional depth. Pepe Balderrama deserves praise for his fine-tuned comic performance despite the fact that, were this a movie, his role would be played by Hank Azaria; part comedy foreigner, part “only gay in the village,” speaking machine gun swift Spanish and mincing around in denim hot pants. While funny, it’s a cliché that jars in an otherwise balanced piece.

Tanya McCallin’s set is fantastic; a cross section of a trailer that conjures all the grimy boredom of a location shoot, the unrelenting rain a constant soundtrack. Sound designer Tim Middleton is also to be congratulated for the expert balance of this dreary backdrop with the regular jagged interruptions of the just-unintelligible radio walky-talkies.

The play marks actor Kate Fahy’s directorial debut, and she does a fine job, keeping it pacey and sharp. It’s clear that this is a labour of love by actors who have all been on the wrong end of a dodgy director and a foreign set, where personal insecurities become a wider fight between arty Brits and Hollywood cash, a battle of wills and an exorcism of boredom. Funny, slick and smart, this is one movie set that is worth a visit.

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