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I Ought To Be In Pictures

Sarah Tierney laughs a lot at the Library Theatre's latest production

Published on February 26th 2010.


I Ought To Be In Pictures

A script about a scriptwriter with writer's block...when you see a play like this it's tempting to assume that the author has based it on their own experiences. Yet when Neil Simon penned this 1979 comedy, productivity wasn't a problem. His fast pen and faster wit were behind classics such as The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys and dozens of other stage and screen hits.

Libby is played by Kirsty Osmon whose CV isn't much longer than that of the aspiring actress she portrays. But whereas you doubt that Libby will ever make it on to the stage, it is clear that Kirsty absolutely belongs there.

Herb, the downtrodden screenwriter at the centre this play, isn't quite so prolific. “I didn't write 46 pages, I wrote one page 46 times,” he says in a moment of weary self-deprecation. The drama takes place in his West Hollywood home – a shabby looking abode where the Californian sun struggles to seep through the dusty windows. It's shaken up by the unexpected arrival of his 19-year-old daughter Libby, who Herb hasn't seen since he abandoned her mother 16 years ago. Libby sent him a letter when she was nine. He replied when she was 12. They've not had any contact since.

With Libby in his life, Herb is forced to face up to his responsibilities as a father – a task he starts to reluctantly enjoy as her stay lengthens. She says she's in Hollywood because she wants to be a film star. In reality, she just wants to get to know her dad and understand why he left.

Libby is played by Kirsty Osmon whose CV isn't much longer than that of the aspiring actress she portrays. But whereas you doubt that Libby will ever make it on to the stage, it is clear that Kirsty absolutely belongs there. Her deadpan delivery marks her out for a career in comedy roles. Though her ability to capture Libby's awkward mix of bravado, determination and vulnerability suggests she could succeed at whatever route she chooses. It's an impressive début.

She is in good company – veteran actor Stuart Fox as Herb and ex-Casualty star Elizabeth Carling as his girlfriend Steffy both give well-rounded, convincing performances.

Steffy, who is initially a sounding board for Herb and Libby's problems, comes into her own in the second half of the play when her frustration with Herb's lack of commitment is laid bare. Whereas Herb and Libby have the funniest lines, Steffy has the wisest ones. “To love someone is to be scared every minute of your life,” she tells Herb. Whether he will confront the fear and let her and Libby into his life on a less casual basis, is the question at the heart of the play.

Neil Simon's script strikes a satisfying balance of wit and wisdom. But just occasionally you feel he has sacrificed truth for the sake of a good joke, such as when Libby interrogates Herb about sex – a funny but far-fetched exchange. Likewise, when this conversation culminates in an emotional denouement, it lacks the realism of the understated scene where a self-conscious Herb has his first telephone conversation with his son.

It's a small criticism though, and it doesn't stop you from caring about this trio of characters. On the whole this a well-observed, warm play which is receiving a warm reception from audiences in response.

I Ought To Be In Pictures, The Library Theatre, Central Library, St Peter's Square, until 27 February, 0161 236 7110, www.librarytheatre.com

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Peter Coyle

i wish i had been there…it sounds like something joyous and anarchic...the way the article is…

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Anonymous

Couldn't agree more. This is a super piece. Ken would be proud that not a penny of public money was…

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Reader Xxx

The review was indeed brilliant - congratulations Angie. The show must have been very special -…

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Claudia Boulton

Thanks Angie for your brilliant piece, so glad you wrote it! Now i know what was going on! Being in…

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