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Play by David Halliwell. Directed by Denis Lawson.
Transfer from the Hampstead Theatre starring Ewan McGregor with Joe Duttine, Sean Gilder, Lou Gish and Nicholas Tennant.
It is winter 1965 and Malcolm Scrawdyke, suspended from art school for being a disruptive influence, plots his revenge on the world. With three loyal acolytes he forms the Party of Dynamic Erection and his icy cold studio becomes their headquarters. Their collective aim is to overthrow authority and establish Scrawdyke as Leader. But as the fantasies become more potent Scrawdyke finds himself at the centre of his own web of destruction....
COMEDY Theatre previewed 20 January, opened 21 January 1999, closed to 13 March 1999
Extracts from the reviews:
"So not every young film star need strip to the bare essentials on stage to score a hit with the heavy breathers - let alone more serious theatre-goers. Last night Ewan McGregor, who has shown himself not averse to dropping his trousers in the cause of art, made a most impressive London theatre debut and revealed he is far more than just a pretty cinematic face and body. Playing Malcolm, the crazy, mixed-up art student who wants to rule the world but cannot even screw up the courage to invite a girl to bed, McGregor damps down his famous sex appeal, sports a fuzzy beard and turns in a seriously funny comic performance... David Halliwell's Little Malcolm And His Struggle Against The Eunuchs is a lost Sixties play which hardly anyone cared to find until now. It won Halliwell the 1967 Evening Standard Drama Award as most promising playwright - a promise which faded out. But Little Malcolm, as the smart dynamism of Denis Lawson's production proves, is well worth dusting down. It's a true period piece from the days before flower power and hippies, a satirical comedy about the dubious urges to political and personal power... McGregor, who loses neither his charisma nor his personality on stage, makes terrific fun of Malcolm by refusing to send him up. He has all the bustling, self-absorbed, humourless ardour of the fanatic and narcissist as he struts around in his greatcoat reeking of phoney grandeur. Sean Gilder's Nipple - gormless, gangling and duffel-coated - the odd shambles of Nicolas Tennant's Ingham, and Joe Duttine's ingratiating smoothie in anachronistic camel-hair coat, complete a talented comic ensemble. The scenes of extended fantasy - kidnapping the principal or charging Nipple with betrayal - go with a humorous swing. But rude reality begins to disturb the quartet's harmony and when Lou Gish's finely acted Ann arrives, the chaps cannot break from dangerous role play. Little Malcolm, it finally transpires, is a rare comedy with a dangerous edge." Nicholas de Jongh, The London Evening Standard
"Tickets have reportedly been changing hands for £200 - and not because of any sudden resurgence of interest in David Halliwell's dust-covered Sixties hit. If that were the main attraction, you would be wanting at least £195 change. No, the big draw is the stage comeback of Ewan McGregor after five hectic years of waggling his willie at the multitudes, sticking his head down shit-blocked bogs and generally being adorably, sexily, Scottishly delinquent on screen. In Denis Lawson's highly entertaining Hampstead production of Little Malcolm and His Struggle against the Eunuchs, McGregor stars as the eponymous art student recently expelled from Huddersfield Tech as a bad influence. He retaliates by organising his pals into a
totalitarian party of four (replete with fascist fist salutes, kangaroo courts and vicious expulsions) with the aim of staging a putsch to humiliate the teacher who booted him out... As Lawson's excellent cast vividly underlines, Malcolm's chums are supremely unpromising material for turning into fascist top brass... The play's rather laboured point is that collective violence has its origins in individual weakness and McGregor powerfully conveys the enraged frustration of the terminally weak-willed. It is Halliwell's fault, not his, that you cannot believe in the escalation from early tomfoolery to the ugly violence of the scene where Lou Gish's plain-speaking Ann is beaten up by Malcolm and gang for no greater offence than having seen through them. It says a lot for the leading actor's charm that he can regain the audience's sympathy after this... A fine production of a not so fine play." Paul Taylor, The Independent
"Everyone knows about the film star Ewan McGregor and London's newspaper-readers have recently learned that his uncle is that very clever, under-used actor Denis Lawson - because Denis has directed Ewan's return to the stage in Little Malcolm, at the Hampstead Theatre. I don't know which of them chose this cruelly dated play. Perhaps Lawson recalled the original production that provoked such trendy acclaim before McGregor was born and thought the flashy central role a good vehicle for his nephew. But it isn't; nor, I think, could it be for anyone now. Little Malcolm is an incoherent thing of theatrical shreds and patches. With a sincere imaginative effort, one can just about see what its attractions might have been in 1965... Now, Little Malcolm seems a virtual museum. Though Lawson has directed it with actorly sympathy and terrific pace, its parts fall apart... We can admire the actors' efforts, but they take us nowhere. When an ugly incident at last brings Malcolm and his cohorts to reflect and repent, the other three chums turn abruptly grown-up and reasonable; Malcolm is left squashed and benighted. Those twists are at once more predictable and more incredible than the original situation, as well as more patronising. McGregor is in the same boat as his more stage-wise colleagues - up a river without a decent paddle. One's sympathies go out to all these excellent people, including Lou Gish's pragmatic, abrasive Ann, but my advice is: avoid, avoid!" David Murray, The Financial Times
"Although cast against type, [Ewan McGregor] acquits himself extremely well in Denis Lawson's swift, sharply edited revival of David Halliwell's 1965 play. The first thing to say is that Halliwell's work, though very much of its period, stands the test of time... The success of the play lies in its comic parody of any tinpot fascist movement. First a leader emerges who attracts a group of tame acolytes. Then comes the expulsion of one of the party as a demonstration of personal power. That is inevitably followed by an act of gratuitous violence which reveals the level of panic and fear. Mixing elements from The Trial, Lord of the Flies and Billy Liar, Halliwell shows a lunatic game gradually acquiring a deadly reality. The obvious weakness is that we see through Scrawdyke long before anyone else... Even if it is difficult to accept McGregor as a man reduced to tongue-tied, virginal gaucheness in the presence of the girl who invades his patch, he still gives a commanding performance. With his scrawny beard and military greatcoat, he looks like a would-be student Napoleon. He also conveys the essential difference between the bullying public figure and the man who crumbles into nothingness in his own company. It is a performance that proves conclusively McGregor can hold a stage. He is also strongly supported... If the play makes for a good evening it is because it pins down the bedsit revolutions of much of 1960s student life and accurately shows how dreams of power spring from emotional deprivation." Michael Billington, The Guardian