The Little Dog Laughed
Are you British? Do you have a knighthood? If not, shut up,” bellows Diane, the sensationally spiky – but desperately needy – agent at her movie star client Mitchell, when he threatens to derail his rising career by publicly coming out as gay. And only recently Rupert Everett – an actor who only has half of those qualifications – publicly cautioned an interview that is quoted in the programme for A Little Dog Laughed: “I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out.”
But Douglas Carter Beane’s ferociously funny and pointed comedy has the last laugh on such blatant Hollywood hypocrisy and routine diversionary tactics, like taking your mother to the Oscars (who can he be referring to?), as it exposes the human cost of such deceit when Mitchell finds himself unexpectedly falling for Alex, the bisexual rentboy he has hired. But Alex proves, charmingly and disarmingly, to have more of a moral centre than the rest of the inhabitants of this amoral world, including his own sometime girlfriend.
This is a smart, sassy play, and Jamie Lloyd’s sleek, slick production attacks it at full throttle. The writing is powered by the funniest set of punchlines this side of an award-winning stand-up routine, and Tamsin Greig delivers all of them with killer punch and timing. She’s one of the funniest, yet also most unsettling, actresses on the London stage – the barbs are lethal, but the pain that lurks below the surface is also toxic.
Everyone needs to surrender in her path, but in the midst of it, Rupert Friend and Harry Lloyd – who spend a lot of time parading around in just their briefs – forge a beautifully tentative, truthful portrait of their relationship, while Gemma Arterton also exposes layers of hurt as her boyfriend’s deceit is exposed.
The comic energy is relentless, but the conscience that lies below its surface provides a restless intelligence to make this play as savage and thoughtful as it is wildly witty.