A Kind of Loving
By Stan Barstow
Adapted by John Godber
The Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2JH t0 16 November 2019.
Runs 2hr 15 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0333 066 3366.
Review: William Russell 2 November.
Fine performances by Adam Goodbody and Courtney Buchner carry this stage adaptation by John Godber of Stan Barstow’s celebrated novel to success. Godber’s adaptation is efficient, but for far too long it is a bit like listening to a Book at bedtime as Goodbody, playing Vic, the young Northerner who gets his girlfriend Ingrid pregnant and marries her, narrates his story. It is interesting enough, quite apart from anything else this is a world long gone, but it is not until Ingrid and he are married and living with her mother that the piece takes real dramatic shape. The book was part of that outburst of northern writing in the 1960s and the subsequent film directed by John Schlesinger, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, sealed its place in the history of the cinema as well as launching the director’s career.
While one can read and view A Kind of Loving as a portrait of times past, in the theatre it is harder to strip away all the things that have happened to society since the 1960s. Today Vic would not be so innocent – the pregnancy occurs because he is not at all clued up about what to do and cannot summon up the courage to buy contraceptives – what if the assistant was a girl? Today that assistant would suggest varieties for use. Nor would Ingrid, let alone her parents, see pregnancy is something that demanded wedlock. She would face up to the life of a single parent with all the social benefits at her disposal and ensure she got maintenance from him. Her mother might still be furious at her daughter for being so daft as to get in the family way, but making a good marriage and bettering oneself socially is no longer the only career open to a woman. In other words this is a historical curiosity rather than what it was in 1962 a shocking and moving tale of two young people making a mistake and maybe surviving it.
Goodbody, lanky, insecure, rebellious, oozing self pity at the trap he has fallen into – they must live with her dragon mother, who is just possibly what Ingrid will in time become – is terrific and his performance is matched by Courtney Buchner as the shallow Ingrid, beehive hairdo and pearls, who thinks classical music is not for her, whereas now the chances are she would be an avid Classic FM listener. The play directed by Elizabeth Elstub runs smoothly and the performances of the rest of the cast are all perfectly watchable, some more so than others. It is more than just a piece of social history but when sex without marriage is now the norm it is being reminded of that world where the man had to do the right thing that is fascinating. Once one would have felt sorry for them, appalled by their respective families – Ingrid’s father stays away from home because of his job as a means of escaping his wife; Vic’s mother is just as much a believer in what the neighbours think and white weddings as Ingrid’s mother. Goodbody has an immense part and he handles it very well indeed. For some it will be a case of all our yesterdays, for others an eye opener on a world that thankfully has vanished, but for which some harbour nostalgic longings still when people knew their place although that explosion of writing of which Barstow was a part was people making clear they were no longer content with their place.
There are some nice costume touches – Vic’s too tight brown suit, his square tie, Ingrid’s fake pearls and the cast do some impressive doubling of roles.
Courtney Buchner: Ingrid Rothwell.
Simon Chappell: Mr Rothwell.
John Chisham: Jim Brown.
David East: Ken Rawlinson, Percy Bell, Doctor.
Adam Goodbody: Victor Brown.
Anna belle Green: Mrs Rothwell, Christine Green.
Josh Husselbee: Mr Van Huyten, David Green.
Hana Kelly: Dot, Mrs Oliphant, 60’s chick.
David Kerr: Mr Brown.
Oliver Lyndon: Willy Lomas, Conroy Parker.
Maggie Robson: Mrs Brown.
Director: Elizabeth Elstub.
Set & Costume Design: Cara Evans.
Lighting Design: Corrie Harris.
Sound Design: Molly Linfield.
Production Photographs: @GreySwanFusion