Brace yourselves, for here comes a little bit of flail pre-review. Prediction: Harry Lloyd will, one day, be very famous. Hopefully. Lloyd stands out magnificently, but not overly, in everything he does. He brings nuance and soul to his performances, is equally attractive and chilling and exudes charisma from his every pore. Lloyd brightened up our TV screens as the snotty-then-evil Baines in Doctor Who, was the sole positive thing in a terrible Arcola production of Ghosts, gained numerous fans in Robin Hood and is currently baring his rather lovely bum to audience gasps in this rather insipid production of Little Dog Laughed. See him in whatever you can, whenever you can.
It's a real shame that the material doesn't stand up to the performances in Little Dog Laughed, for all in this production are strong performers with the ability to do a good job - that is, if they're given good enough words to play with. Gemma Arterton proves herself competent as Ellen, the sometimes girlfriend of Lloyd's rent boy Alex, but her character is so underwritten and under-realised that it's hard to come away with a lasting impression of anything other than a relatively pleasant performance. Meanwhile, Tamsin Greig is engaging as snappy, snarky agent Diane, but feels somewhat distanced from the action, utilised as a deux ex machina rather than a real fourth person blending into the action.
Rupert Friend blends the arrogance, loneliness and kindness of actor Mitchell (who is forced to hide his sexuality but who falls for Alex) rather well, and although he never gets the chance to develop their relationship, the seeds of a strong chemistry are well sown between him and Lloyd, who sparkles at every opportunity as he and Mitchell dance around each other throughout. Having said that, there aren't many of those opportunities, thanks to the superficial, over-the-top and often cliched writing from Douglas Carter Beane. Not only do the characters constantly break the fourth wall - not always an issue, but sufficiently irritating in this case - but when they do, they've not really got anything new to say. And the ending. Oh, the ending. Lame isn't the word, nor is ridiculous, but it doesn't fit well with the rest of the play and it lacks any real conviction.
The issue of hidden homosexuality in Hollywood is an incredibly interesting and still extremely valid one, but sadly Carter Beane completely fails to attack it with any real depth or integrity here.