by Bill Naughton.
Blackeyed Theatre in association with South Hill Park Arts Centre at Buxton Opera House.
Tour to 15 May 2010
Runs: 2hr 25 min One interval.
Review: Stoon 24 February at Buxton Opera House.2009
The thoughts of Chairman Alfie…atmospheric, funny, mesmerising and delivered with edgy charm .
Last Spring Blackeyed gave us their radical adaptation of The Cherry Orchard (which I loved). Artistic Director Adrian McDougall acknowledged it would divide audiences. This time he’s at the helm of another wonderful hotchpot of drama, comedy and physicality – with universal appeal.
It’s theatre at its purest; a cast of just 5 create everything you see and hear with a few instruments and the contents of a Transit van, and transport you to the World of Alfie Elkins, a 1962 Cockney Playboy with the style, looks and patter to finance his ego.
With the memory of Michael Caine’s iconic 1966 cinematic creation etched in most minds it’s a risky role; impersonation is pointless as many have parodied Caine, yet to ignore his Alfie is to admit failure. Half measures aren’t an option, as there are reams of narration which require audience engagement. Enter Edward Elks. Within minutes he nails audience attention with a perfect performance that’s utterly contemporary in its vibrant execution, yet faithful to the spirit of Caine – simultaneously attracting love and loathing.
But it’s the multi-layered staging that lifts this into the realms of 3D theatre – Alfie’s just a frontman, quite literally. Behind him the other cast members create visual scenes to illustrate his dialogue, and periodically engage directly with him with seamless ease. Further behind lies the musical accompaniment, an almost ghostly backdrop with a central drum kit around which the cast gather to play.
Gabrielle Meadows is excellent as Alfie’s various love interests, lending the downtrodden victims such conviction that on occasion we wish for Alfie’s downfall. Lisa Howard plays a selection of secondary love interests, movingly so in an abortion scene, and sings with clarity. Ben Harrison, as Alfie’s rival bent on revenge, gets the malice right, alongside percussion duties and sound effects. It falls to Courtney Spence to represent, skillfully, the mundane face of responsible society upon whose unsatisfied wives Alfie feasts.
There’s creativity aplenty with pre-recorded adverts, interval entertainment, excellent score and a standout medical examination scene. Bar one instance of scene continuity and a rushed final minute, it’s flawlessly consistent.
Alfie: Edward Elks.
Harry/Lofty/Sharpey: Ben Harrison.
Siddie/Doctor/Lily/Flo/Ruby/Vy: Lisa Howard.
Gilda/Annie/Carla: Gabrielle Meadows.
Humphrey/Joe/Perc/Mr Smith: Courtney Spence
Director: Adrian McDougall.
Designer: Victoria Spearing.
Lighting: Laura Cox.
Composer: Ian McDougall.
Musical Director: Tom Neill.
Choreographer: Gillian Albone.
Costume: Pamela Wiggin.
Dialect coach: Harriet Kershaw.