BEL Air, 1981. Hollywood agent Sue Mengers (Miriam Margolyes, pictured) lounges on her couch, resplendent in a jewel-collared blue caftan.
With a client list including Candice Bergen, Gore Vidal, Gene Hackman and Cybill Shepherd, Mengers is at the zenith of her career. Until the first hints of a fall from favour — if not grace — creep in.
Barbra Streisand, an old friend as well as a client — “I knew her when she still had the other ah” — has just fired her. Streisand’s lawyers have broken the news and promised a late-evening call from Babs herself. And so, with the phone placed delicately atop a cushion beside Mengers, an audience with this grande dame, this doyenne of Tinseltown, begins.
Margolyes plays the super agent — “the first woman to become The Man in Hollywood”, as Maureen Dowd put it — with incredible flair; all chutzpah and graceless charm.
Her accent is startlingly perfect, her timing is killer and, underneath the ash-blonde wig and hexagonal tinted glasses, Margolyes disappears entirely.
She chain smokes, drinks and curses her way through John Logan’s 85-minute monologue, dishing on everyone from Faye Dunaway to Elton John with a withering, worldly glee.
The real Mengers died in 2011, and playwright Logan built the bones of I’ll Eat You Lastfrom the unedited audio transcripts of a 2000 Vanity Fairinterview with journalist Peter Biskind.
The words are often hers, and the real Mengers’ fondness for celebrities — her “twinklies”, as she called them — and her distaste for politics, real life and anything else beyond the Hollywood Hills, reign supreme.
In the hands of a lesser actor, the 11 o’clock moments of pathos and reflection might’ve felt forced or tacked on, but Margolyes and director Dean Bryant handle them without gloves, resisting the easy temptation to make Mengers pitiable or soft.
Owen Phillips’ set is a gaudy, precise marvel, and Ross Graham’s lighting does plenty of near-invisible heavy lifting on its own. I’ll Eat You Last is brilliant, bitchy, knock-the-wind-out-of-you funny, and a cracking night at the theatre
Posted : 9th November 2014