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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Madonna 'disappoints' on stage
Madonna rehearses at Wyndham's theatre, London
Madonna last appeared on stage 14 years ago

It seems as if any old international megastar can get a leading role in the West End these days.

And when you are as famous as Madonna, your name alone is enough to guarantee a sell-out run.

But judging from the preview of Up For Grabs, starring Madonna in the lead role, Dame Judi Dench has nothing to worry about.

Madonna leaves the theatre after her first preview
Madonna gets raunchy in Up For Grabs
Madonna - who has not trodden the boards for 14 years - seemed nervous, hesitant and unsure of both her lines and her surroundings.

Eventually, though, she relaxed, and a persona that first appeared remote and cold became playful and confident.

And while she is painfully lacking in the stagecraft and projection departments, she has a charm and charisma that always makes her the centre of attention.

Not that it matters, but Madonna plays a New York art dealer attempting to sell a Jackson Pollock painting for $2m more than it is worth.

To do so she must pander to her wealthy clients' every whim, even if it means cuckolding her husband, compromising her ethics and losing her self-respect.

Lesbian liaisons, rubber sex toys, cocaine-fuelled orgies - yes folks, it's just your average night out in London's glamorous theatreland.

'Madonna's baby'

But David Williamson's comedy - a hit in his native Australia - does have a few points to make on the warped priorities of the art world and the secret vices of the wealthy.

The best performances come from Michael Lerner as a hen-pecked multi-millionaire and Sian Thomas as a prim, English collector.

One suspects, however, they know they are only there to make up the numbers.

For this is Madonna's baby, and it is her that everyone has come to see.

And although she will not be winning an Oscar any time soon, she does not disgrace herself in a play that would mean less than nothing without her.

Up For Grabs is on at the Wyndham's theatre, London, from 23 May to 13 July.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Neil Smith
"At one point Madonna gets involved in a ménage a trois"

Picture gallery
Madonna the actress
See also:

23 May 02 | Entertainment
13 May 02 | Entertainment
01 May 02 | Entertainment
26 Apr 02 | Entertainment
17 Apr 02 | Entertainment
22 Mar 02 | Entertainment
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