THEATRE TALK: Samuel Barnett Is The Man

See Samuel Shine

Best known for his portrayal of Posner in the History Boys, Samuel Barnett has more recently been busily making his name synonymous with a certain kind of witty, emotive acting that tugs at the heartstrings but can set you laughing the next minute. He's been a synaesthesia sufferer in The Whisky Taster at the Bush, an adult Simon Doonan in Jonathan Harvey's fabulous Beautiful People and is currently starring in Middleton revenge tragedy Women Beware Women at the National.

He's a somewhat underrated actor but one who hasn't learnt any bad habits, who can immediately make you believe he is whoever he plays - a harder task than you might imagine. As Ben in James Graham's latest play - The Man, currently being staged at the Finborough Theatre in Earl's Court as part of its Vibrant Festival - he displays all of these qualities and more. The story of a man and his tax return is all too familiar, the crippling, all-consuming doubt over what to include as an expense depressingly relatable.

The Man is more of a character study than a full-on dramatic play, but it's a lovely piece of work. It's stuffed full of intriguing monologues - some light-hearted, some deeply affecting. Despite the ever-changing running order of the play, Graham's writing successfully delves deep into Ben's history, his family and his inability to form lasting relationships, without the chronology ever really seeming off despite the jumps in time periods. It's in the moments when Ben stares you in the eyes, holding you to him as he plays a silly song on his iPod or breaks down at the memory of his brother, that it's hard to remember that this isn't a real person dealing with these real issues. Stunning stuff.

(The actors will be changing throughout the run - Leander Deeny and George Rainsford are also confirmed, while author James Graham is also due to perform his own work, which should be an interesting catch)

Hair Limps To A Close

Despite its strong cast and mostly positive reviews, it seems that hippie musical Hair is seriously struggling. It has just been announced (tweets from West End performers prefaced an official announcement) that the show will close on September 4, cutting its original date of January 2011 by a good few months.

Not great news for poor Liam Tamne, late of Hairspray, who has only just joined the show in an ensemble track, but at least it's not three weeks notice - three months is pretty generous, all things told. An all-British cast were due to replace the Tony Award-winning American team in October but producers have chosen instead to cut their losses and run. This isn't massively surprising, considering the relative expense of putting up and paying an entire American cast, and with the perceived high ticket prices (despite the show being on TKTS daily) and the anonymity of the current cast to the majority of UK theatregoers, who want either a British star or something familiar, it may never have had much of a chance.

Shows To See

For Londoners, Miranda Sings is coming to the Leicester Square Theatre this Thursday. If you like her, you'll love this show, which humiliates guest stars including Daniel Boys, Adrian Hansel and Jon Lee. If you hate her, well, back off. Otherwise, a very zippy and funny UK tour of Spamalot has just begun - it's in Wimbledon until 5 June and then begins its slow pootle around the country. Starring Marcus Brigstocke and Jodie Prenger as King Arthur and the Lady Of The Lake, it's a far more scaled-down version of the show, but one that makes up for it with a very bubbly ensemble.

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From This Author Miriam Zendle

Miriam Zendle is a freelance journalist specialising in arts, music and showbiz journalism. She has written for everyone from the Guardian to the Times and (read more...)

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