Ben Galvin and William Batty are superb in this disturbing play about money, isolation, genius and ‘everything that is’.
This production captures Greenburg’s witty comedy and devastating tragedy about the Collyer brothers, found dead in 1947 in their New York home, surrounded by thousands of hoarded objects.
Ben Galvin and William Batty had a lot to live up to when they stepped in the shoes of Andrew Scott and David Dawson to play Langley and Homer Collyer in The Dazzle. The former is a talented but child-like and capricious pianist, the latter is an alcoholic, frustrated and deeply miserable retired lawyer. We are meant to detest and love them at once, and both actors succeed in keeping that balance. Galvin’s Langley is exceedingly irritating in his pedantry but hilarious in his lack of social tact, deplorable in his rejection of his brother but sympathetic in his dependency on him. Batty’s Homer is pathetic in his attempts at mixing with society and abhorrent in his drinking and lewd sexism, but nearly drove me to tears of sympathy at other points.
Their relationship is triangulated by the appearance of Milly, a damaged and sensual Fifth Avenue girl played excellently by Juliet Martin. The construction of these three character’s fraught relationships is at the heart of the play and the actors navigate it very well.
Greenburg creates his sense of a developing relationship through a forty-year-long ellipsis, dividing the play into two parts are meant to contrast one another. The staging of this ellipsis was a weak point in the production.
There was not enough clarity regarding the passing of time, despite some changes to set (Jonathan Powell) and costume (Ella Muir), both a particularly strong aspect of the first half. While the actors conveyed their character developments superbly, it was only through clues in the dialogue that I could tell how long the time lapse really was.
That said, the play is very difficult to set, particularly in such a small space as Corpus Playroom. Historically, the Collyer brothers hoarded 14 grand pianos and a Model T Ford chassis – a practical impossibility on stage.
With that aside, the rest of the play was essentially flawless. The production team (Beth Kelly as Creative Producer, Amara Heyland-Morrin as Director, Aine McNamara as Assistant Director and Mariam Abdel-Razek as Associate Director) put together a production well worth seeing. (I was particularly surprised to hear after the show that all the music was composed and played live by Aidan Tulloch – incredible!)