About Lester is a production by Coast to Coast, written and directed by third year English and Drama student Rohan Gotobed. Receiving excellent feedback from its original performance back in June, I was intrigued to attend its recent revival, and was not disappointed. Wonderfully written, the cast successfully execute a range of complex and beautifully crafted characters who all possess ambiguous moral compasses. The play serves as social commentary, reflecting on the very relevant topic of the underlying tension between power and sex, and also as a means to emulate the destructive correlation between being beautiful and being worthy. Blurring the line between reality and fiction, this play is both thought-provoking and accusatory, inviting us to reflect upon our own moralities and beliefs regarding the weighty subjects that are depicted.
About Lester alludes to the ramifications of the demise of high-profile celebrities and the catalytic societal changes that are created, inspiring movements such as ‘Time’s Up’ – a recent political movement that has captured the attention of the world. It tells the story of Lester Burnham (the talented Charlie Douglas) who, after rising to fame as a Hollywood actor, has become immersed in stories of corruption and assault. Lester is a character who epitomises ambition and greed, and yet still exudes a certain level of vulnerability. Greatly influenced by both Kevin Spacey’s and Harvey Weinstein’s falls from grace after accusations of sexual assault, the parallels drawn from the real-life scandals that we’ve been spectators of over the last year grounds the play in realism. The play is intersected with doses of authenticity via the use of TV interview clips with the two actors, as well as appearances from US President Donald Trump making misogynistic and sexist remarks, such as the abhorrent ‘grab them by the pussy!’. Together, these features reiterate the gravity of the subject in a society striving for equality.
Nyree William’s representation of Carolyn as a woman in power is captivating, and her character intricate. It certainly made me question my own personal response to the scenario she found herself having to confront. If the world chooses to forgive should we too move on? Can such things be erased from the mind of the world? Should they be? The underlying tone of the play evokes a cynical view regarding the treatment of sexism and sexual assault within society, alluded to by the complexities of the relationship between the women in the play, particularly that of Angela (Nancy O’Melia) and Jane (Erin Clancy). Both aspiring actresses, the play explores the destructive nature of the expectations placed on women to fit a certain mould, and the harmful consequences this has on one’s feelings of self-worth. O’Melia and Clancy perform with sincerity and execute the more emotional scenes of the play beautifully.
Whilst the second half of the production can initially feel like a strange transition from the world of Hollywood actors and agents as seen in the first half, the alternate reality it explores wherein Lester is a school teacher, rather than an actor, engages the audience by creating a relatable, every day scenario. Exploring the gender dynamics in a more mundane setting adds another layer of realism to the production, and subverting the roles adds a level of empowerment to the last scene, as Jane proclaims to a rather unnerved Lester that we (the people of society, men and women alike) will ‘stride and stretch’, encapsulating the premise of the play and declaring the hope for the future – that time really is up.