Eddie Izzard Ends His ‘Race’ on the Great White Way

Anglophenia contributor Paul Hechinger looks at comedian Eddie Izzard‘s headlining stint in David Mamet‘s Race, which ends August 21st on Broadway.

Eddie Izzard is just finishing up a fascinating run in David Mamet‘s Race, playing a defense attorney in a controversial rape case.

Izzard took over the role from James Spader, who’s made a career out of playing slippery lawyers. But Izzard’s staggering talent as a transvestite stand-up comedian is so overwhelming that it can be difficult at times to see him playing anyone else other than Eddie Izzard. I have to admit there’ve been times I’ve seen him act, and I’ve half expected him to turn to one of the other characters and ask, ‘Cake or death?’

Then, too, there are the differences between Mamet’s and Izzard’s verbal styles. Mamet is all staccato toughness and force, pounding and brutal. Izzard is highly discursive, digressive, and self-referential. He doesn’t just perform: he meta-performs. Watching Eddie Izzard can be like watching the comedian and his own commentary track at the same time.

And yet, he’s a first-rate actor, who made his West End acting debut in Mamet’s The Cryptogram in 1994.

All these tensions provide still more possible levels of interest to Mamet’s puzzle box of a play, which feels like Ibsen by way of L.A. Law.

After all, Race is about preconceptions and prejudices. As audience members, like Mamet’s unseen jurors, we can’t escape ours. Perhaps because we know Izzard’s comedy, we’re more predisposed to feel, as I did, that the comedian’s persona creeps in, just ever so slightly, at a various points in the evening. Or we might remember that, while Spader has played many lawyers on TV, Izzard spent a lot of time playing a con artist who impersonates a lawyer – that was the central premise of The Riches, the television series he himself produced. How meta is that?

by Paul Hechinger

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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