Buyer & Cellar
by Jonathan Tolins • dir Andrew Beckett
with Aaron Sidwell
Above the Stag Theatre, Vauxhall • 14.Oct–8.Nov.20
Alex (Sidwell) energetically bounds onto the stage to tell his elaborate story, which he notes from the top is totally made-up, to avoid any legal issues. An out-of-work actor in Los Angeles, Alex applies for a job in a surreal Malibu mansion and finds himself working on a Ye Olde English street notoriously constructed in Barbra Streisand's basement, a row of shops in which she keeps her huge collection of memorabilia. When Barbra descends for a browse in the doll collection, they roleplay as a shopper and clerk, which breaks the ice, developing into a friendship. But is this relationship any more real than the shops are?
Sidwell delivers each anecdote superbly, even as the writing itself struggles to maintain its momentum. It helps that there are some big themes gurgling through the show, including a look at the general artifice of the lives of the rich and famous. You may be able to buy gorgeous things to fill your home, but that won't bring happiness or personal satisfaction. Even more interesting is the exploration of the impact of childhood on our adult selves, and the way each of us creates the world we want to live in using whatever resources we have. These ideas are beautifully textured in Sidwell's performance, which gives the show a haunting, must-see quality.