When a performer is granted the privilege of an entire West End stage to themselves it feels like a somewhat significant theatrical event and carries with it a certain level of excitement.

After all, a one-person show is a physical and emotional feat for any actor – it’s something special.

This latest production from across the pond represents a first on the London stage for both Harry Clarke and for Billy Crudup, who incidentally delivers an encore-worthy performance as opportunistic conman Philip Brugglestein.

David Cale’s hugely funny play looks at life through the lens of Brugglestein – a Midwestern man who assumed a British accent in his youth and never quite let it go.

Now working, and barely making ends meet, as a barista in Manhattan, quite by chance Brugglestein discovers the cheapest ticket to social acceptance is bought through deception.

Under the guise of his imagined cockney character Harry Clarke, Brugglestein invites his way into the affections – and into the beds – of a wealthy New York family with shocking ease. Just as Patricia Highsmith and Anthony Minghella did in their presentation of the iconic character Tom Ripley, Cale explores identity in sophisticated Shakesperean fashion.

Brugglestein is false, yes, he is criminal, yes, but in this finely written play it’s hard to be too hard on the man whose victims take such shallow references.

Alan C Edward’s atmospheric lighting design successfully carries the audience from a coffee shop in Manhattan, downstairs into a Rhode Island gay bar, and onto the deck of a yacht bathed in moonlight.

"It’s expertly subtle"

It’s expertly subtle, the changes in light and tone transitioning just as smoothly and undetectably as Harry Clarke moves between his various personae.

Billy Crudup doesn’t falter in his performance of over a dozen characters, leaning into Cale’s smartest lines with both body and voice to squeeze the last drop out of every laugh. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also extremely tense, because at any moment the man could be unmasked.

Similarities between Brugglestein and his ‘mark’ render the play even more meaningful. Cale explores sexuality and the struggle to express man’s desires honestly and publicly. Harry Clarke certainly gives audiences a lot to think about, and it’s worth the price of entry.

Order tickets here: https://www.theambassadorstheatre.co.uk/shows/harry-clarke

Harry Clarke runs at Ambassadors Theatre until Saturday 11 May 2024