The Tailor-Made Man returns to London after its premiere in 1992. This time, a traditional English pub in Soho houses the Hollywood drama of glam and hyperboles amid the whiff of pints and wine.

The play follows the life and career of the late American star, Charles William “Billy” Haines (1900-1973). William Haines (Hugo Plicher) had a short career in film despite a successful box office debut. He was discovered by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (‘MGM') but was later forced to quit acting by MGM for refusing to deny his homosexuality. The rise and fall of William Haines and his relationship with Jimmie Shields (Gwithian Evans) drive the main story arc, narrated from Jimmie's perspective. However, Haines remains a somewhat elusive personality despite Hugo Plicher's stunning performance.

Even as Haines was forced to walk out of Hollywood, he remains untroubled and unapologetically self-assured just as he was throughout the play whilst his anxious lover worries ceaselessly and seeks his reassurance. Neither Jimmie as a narrator nor Haines as a character reveals much of the psyche of the cool Hollywood star, which otherwise would have enriched the drama.

Claudio Macor, the playwright, offers a condensed and entertaining summary of Haines's dynamic life, but the fast-paced glitz shadows the complexity of the context in which Haines finds himself in—the experience of Hollywood stardom as a gay actor in the face of a then staunchly homophobic industry.

The brilliant performance of the actors and actresses, however, does not fail to awe and amuse, especially in re-enacting the classical Hollywood cinema. Robert McWhir's direction also adds dynamism to the production. The movements and spectacles take good advantage of the pub interior.

Every scene exudes energy and emotions. The set and costumes by David Shields and Janet Hucklro are convincingly ‘Hollywood' and in every way impressive in detail and symbolism. The Tailor-Made Man truly captures ‘Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood' in the most Soho way possible.

The Tailor-Made Man, 9 May – 31 July 2024 at the Stage Door Theatre

Review: Sam Lee