Theatre Review: Brighton Rock

Published by One&Other Creative | 23rd Feb 2018

Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal’s production of Brighton Rock has caused a bit of a buzz around York of late, with many fans of the novel keen to see how Bryony Lavery’s new adaptation would tackle the iconic text.

The answer comes fast as we’re plunged into the murky waters of the Brighton shore. Lavery has concentrated much of her attention on the contrasting of characters. We have Ida, played wonderfully by Gloria Onitiri as the moral backbone – tenacious and worldly and worlds apart from the easily influenced Rose – played by Sarah Middleton – who does a fantastic job of capturing the young girl’s naiveté. And then there’s Pinkie, the corrupt teen, caught in the mire, already lost and willing to bring down any in his path. Jacob James Beswick does a fantastic job of capturing Pinkie’s inner turmoil, whilst giving us hard-to-watch glimpses of the vicious evil that seems so desperate to escape him.

The three together are allowed to set-up the ongoing battle of morality, and the set-up works well. However, as the play progresses, it falls short of exploring the theological and moral message of Graham Greene’s novel. It’s as if we’ve been allowed to taste it, but forbidden from biting into the stick of rock dangled in-front of us.

Our lead actors are supported by a highly skilled, multi-rolling ensemble. The decision to have them as gang members, lurking on stage throughout as ill-meaning shadows, creates a thread of uneasiness that serves to unsettle and promise that threat is never far away. 

The staging of this play is quite frankly, awesome. A two-tier set modelled on Brighton Pier, and pin-sharp scene changes that are almost as tense as the on-stage action drag the audience into the coastal underworld. This, combined with Hannah Peel’s soundtrack – performed live on stage throughout – give the whole production an almost cinematic feel. It’s a perfect medley of set and sound that alone makes this production of Brighton Rock worth seeing. Add some exceptional choreography to the mix (look out for the staircase!) and you’ve got yourself some highly immersive theatre. 

My only wish would have been that we could’ve delved deeper. At times it felt as though too much had been glossed over, which risks leaving the audience underwhelmed as the lights come up. But that is always going to be the case with an ambitious adaptation such as this, and it was absolutely a risk worth taking.

Theatre Review: The River

Published by One&Other Creative | 28th April 2018

I’ll admit, I walked into Friargate Theatre last night with next to no knowledge of Jez Butterworth’s The River, or any of his other work for that matter. I had no expectations of what Wildgoose Theatre’s latest offering would be, other than an enigmatic mystery with a fishing theme.

As the lights came up, revealing the fantastic set built by director Andy Love himself, we were immediately transported to Butterworth’s cliffside cabin. The spell had begun, with the words of W.B. Yeats washing over us and adding to the magic.

The River takes us into the world of The Man (George Stagnall) – the owner of the aforementioned cabin who returns once a year on a moonless night to fish for his beloved sea trout. To his dismay, his new girlfriend, The Woman (Claire Morley), seems much less enthusiastic about the prospect of hunting for fish.

The anticipated enigma begins from this point, as The Man frantically calls the police in search of his missing girlfriend, only for her to appear in a surprising new form. To reveal more would be to ruin the enticing mystery of the play, but it’s absolutely one that must be experienced.

Andy Love has done a fantastic job of capturing what is quite clearly a beautifully crafted script, full of poetic lyricism and rich with deep, layered metaphor that few writers would be capable of carrying off. Every member of this small cast – including Anna Rogers and Amy Fincham as well as Stagnall and Morley – carry this off with such professional poise as to make it seem effortless. Every word delivered is savoured, and it is absolutely clear that Wildgoose Theatre’s take on The River has been a true labour of love, and the audience reaps the rewards of this in abundance. The true success of this play is in its’ ability to let everyone go home with their own unique interpretation, and I guarantee it’ll leave you pondering long after you’ve left the theatre.

It’s easy to throw about the “must-see” banner these days but I assure you, this production absolutely deserves that title. The River is undoubtedly one of the most beautifully crafted productions York has seen this year, and its’ only downside is the short run (this weekend only here in York, with another night in Leeds on 3 May).