- October 23, 2019
Few plays come with such a terrifying reputation as this, not only as a landmark piece of British theatre, but also for an iconic performance from none other than Sir Laurence Olivier. Daunting surely, brave too… so full marks to the team behind this extremely good revival of John Osborne’s ground-breaking drama. Revival in more than once sense too. Whilst we are ready to accept changes in time and location in historic theatre, it might seem a strange decision to move this from the Suez crisis to the early 80s and the Falklands war – but it is an intelligent and effective conceit, quite simply it works.
Shane Richie drops into the role of the frankly hideous Archie Rice with ease, his years of work in the entertainment industry in its broadest sense make him an utterly believable circuit comic coping with a dying art and dwindling audience. His misogynistic material jars with the majority of the audience, a few still laughing at the off-colour jokes, and the misogyny carries through to his dysfunctional family life. It’s an extremely impressive performance showing that he is an actor of quality.
Sara Crowe is equally impressive as the downtrodden and damaged wife, simply struggling to cope with her atrocious husband by self medicating with booze, lots of booze. It’s a terrific performance only let down by the fact that Crowe is fresh faced, pretty and rather sexy, despite the best efforts of make-up and costume to make her look world worn and frumpy.
Diana Vickers has fire, Archie’s daughter from the first marriage struggling with her relationship with him and her stepmother and she too using gin as a coping mechanism. Again a superb performance as the conflicted daughter in a rapidly disintegrating family.
Pip Donaghy is Billy, the elderly music hall comic caught in the crossfire, horrified by modern values or the lack of them and resisting being controlled by booze as almost every member of the family try to pour gin and beer down his throat. His performance is flawless, razor sharp in delivering the fear and anger of an elderly man.
Christopher Bonwell is Frank, the youngest member of this messy ménage, is the link perhaps to a better life ahead, but one that is so tenuous that his presence is appropriately fragile.
The comedy vignettes and songs are delivered by Richie with real conviction as his art crumbles around him but it is in the ensemble scenes in their tired home that the cast really shine. The rapid fire arguments are delivered at break-neck pace, the harsh lines crossing the stage like gun shots, equally dangerous too.
Director Sean O’Connor has delivered an extraordinary production that, by taking some liberties, presents this classic work in a way that has power and relevance.
Theatre Royal Brighton