The Tailor Made Man, 5 Stars

The Tailor-Made Man
The White Bear Theatre
7th to 25th Nov 2017

“The Tailor-Made Man, the powerful true story about the Hollywood studio system and its hypocrisy and the star who gave up everything for the man he loved, is to get a 25th anniversary production in London.

William “Billy” Haines was a popular silent screen MGM movie star who was fired by Louis B Mayer because he was gay and refused to give up his lifelong partner, Jimmie Shields, and marry the silent screen vamp Pola Negri. As punishment, his films were removed from release and sealed in the MGM vaults never to be seen again, and his studio photographs destroyed. It was an attempt to erase him completely from movie history. But Billy and Jimmy’s turbulent, passionate love affair was to survive and lasted over 50 years…this is their story.

The cast includes
Mitchell Hunt (Mr Selfridge, Hollyoaks)  as William “Billy” Haines  and
Tom Berkeley as Jimmie Shields.

Claudio Macor said: Thirty years ago a friend gave me a copy of Kenneth Anger’s book Hollywood Babylon. As I was reading the various Hollywood scandals Kenneth Anger so vividly described I came across “The White Legion and the Purple Poodle” and discovered the story of William “Billy” Haines and Jimmie Shields. I was still acting at the time and dreamed of playing Billy but soon fell out of love with acting when I started writing. The Tailor-Made Man play premiered in London at the Hen and Chickens in 1992, it quickly got a transfer to the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) to be followed by a TV showcase by Thames Television, who were were planning to bring back Masterpiece Theatre. The Tailor-Made Man” was chosen to be one of the six initial episodes but then Thames lost their ITV franchise. The play was then performed on Freedom Radio with Broadway star Robert Bogue as Billy and Oscar-nominated Judd Hirsch as Louis B Mayer, and had successful runs in San Diego and West Hollywood. It received another London run at the Cockpit Theatre before its off-Broadway run at Centre Stage New York. It was turned into a musical in 2013  at London’s Arts Theatre. This revival of the original play at the White Bear Theatre is the 25th year anniversary production. It’s actually 25 years and 25 days since the first performance!”

Review by Richard Lambert, 5 Stars

This wonderful 25th Anniversary production of “The Tailor-Made Man” should be seen by everyone! It’s truly magnificent in all departments!

The Set and Period Costumes provide a parade after parade of scene sets clearly identifying each location and passage of time. Mike Lees has pulled out all the stops to create an environment that transports you into offices, studios, on the beach and in people’s homes. It works extremely well without any major set changes!!! The attention to detail is outstanding, even the glamourous jewellery looks priceless!

The Cast are so well cast. Not a flicker of “acting” except where deliberate on the film set, everyone skilled in their craft and authentically believable. And of course they’re given great material – Claudio Macor’s script is not only witty it’s clever, well paced and tells this incredibly important story! MGM locked away the films and tried to eradicate their star’s work in a homophobic response to his “sexually deviant behaviour”. MGM offer the possibility to a young actress to star in a film if she weds in a “let’s marry him off” scenario – but this fails. It’s only right that this managerial bully behavior behind the big screen is now exposed and we see Hollywood for what it really was (or maybe still is?)!!!

Directed by Bryan Hodgson “The Tailor-Made Man” is in very safe hands! Every scene receives equal consideration – which can be challenging when the audience are sat on 2 adjacent sides at 90 degrees to each other’s seating block. Use of the set, the period props, and the blocking all spot on!!!

It’s sad that a play like this won’t generate the sort of income that would support large posters on the Underground and a much wider audience would know about it and have the opportunity to come and see it. Instead the tourists will have visibility of the usual West End fodder productions. Well, at least “those in the know” who live in London and do keep an eye out for the lesser publicised shows like this one can treat themselves to this gem of a show!

This is the pearl in the oyster of London theatre.

Photo Credit Andreas Lambi

William “Billy” Haines – Michael Hunt
Jimmie Shields – Tom Berkeley
Howard Srickling – Edwin Flay
Louis B Mayer – Dean Harris
Miss Marion Davies – Yvonne Lawlor
Victor Darro – Henry Felix
Carole Lombard/Pola Negri – Rachel Knowles
Hoper/Thalberg/Roderick – Peter Dewhurst

W hite Bear Theatre
138 Kennington Park Road

Tuesday 7 November to
Saturday 25 November.

Press night
Thursday November 9 at 7.30pm

Tuesday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Sunday at 4.00pm

£16 and £12 concs inc booking fee


Facebook: eastlakeproductions


Box Office: 0333 012 4963 (Local rate)

10% off food with every ticket sold