Review: Barrymore

If you only know him as Captain Von Trapp or General Chang then prepare to have your eyes opened to the tour de force that is Christopher Plummer. The veteran actor gives a magnetic performance in this virtual one-man Tony Award-winning production as he brings celebrated broadway actor, screen star and infamous alcoholic John Barrymore (Drew’s grandad) back to life.

As well as providing audiences with an opportunity to see the more nuanced aspects of Plummer’s performance than from a traditional theatre seat, director Canuel makes great use of cinematic techniques (cutaways, projected film images) to add value to what is already a compelling slice of stagecraft. Armed with a drinks trolley, Plummer takes a number of detours as Barrymore (a self-described “living advert for all the world’s liquor companies”) attempts a comeback crack at Richard “the turd”, discussing early life with siblings Ethel and Lionel, his four “bus accident” marriages and the perils of growing old.

Memorable dialogue comes at every turn as Barrymore mangles Shakespearian solioquys and shares his favourite lusty limericks. The necessary theatricality may not be every moviegoer’s cup of tea, but as an acting masterclass it’s educational and entertaining.