by Edward Bond.
Young Vic 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 31 March 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 31 March 2.30pm.
Captioned 29 March.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 March.
Production and acting dead right for remorseless, rewarding drama.
Shakespeare’s taken the stage in a number of dramas; hardly surprising as the playwright of all human passions presents so many personal and biographical ambiguities. In Australian David Allen’s Cheapside the indeterminate, whining-toned Midlands newcomer contrasts the quarrelsome, opinionated dramatists of Elizabethan London.
Edward Bond’s 1974 Bingo sees Shakespeare at the other end of life, retired to his Stratford-upon-Avon garden, where his initially peaceful appearance soon turns out detachment, staying out of his house and away from his family, concentrating on a business document.
Bond subtitles Bingo, ‘Scenes of Money and Death’. Angus Jackson’s concentrated, detailed production, first seen at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre, with its picture of self-satisfied Warwickshire businessman William Combe (given a smiling demeanour by Matthew March, his harshness to the poor in no way damaging his sense of being right), has become only more relevant as Austerity government demonises the poor – though not, to date, literally whipping them.
Bond’s scenes are series rather than serial; different experiences angled at the mind of a man who understood human nature in the plays he once wrote, while protecting his property tights and rejecting his family.
Shakespeare moves, Lear-like, from his garden, through a return to literary London, where fellow-dramatist Ben Jonson can’t comprehend his leaving the theatre, back to a bare, snowbound Stratford and a home where he lies sick on his second-best bed, locking-out the furious screams of his wife, her only interest the legal document that’s one of the Shakespearean puns on ’Will’. Money meets death.
Patrick Stewart invests his silences with the sense of a life lived-out; the adventures of the plays over, there is nothing in this breathing world but detachment and protection of property. The taciturn Shakespeare isn’t so far from Allen’s characterisation. But the property-owning bourgeois is.
Angus Jackson’s production does the only possible thing with Bond’s intensely-realised stagecraft, which is follow its starkness. A strong company creates vividly-etched, remorseless characters, glimpses of cold humour coming from Richard McCabe’s Ben Jonson (the late Arthur Lowe, of Dad’s Army created the part) and John McEnery’s gardener, half-way between town idiot and garden gnome.
Judith: Catherine Cusack.
Wally: Tom Godwin.
Old Woman: Ellie Haddington.
Joan/2nd Old Woman: Joanne Howarth.
Jerome: Kieron Jecchinis.
William Combe: Matthew Marsh.
Ben Jonson: Richard McCabe.
Old Man: John McEnery.
Son: Alex Price.
William Shakespeare: Patrick Stewart.
Young Woman: Michelle Tate.
Director: Angus Jackson.
Designer: Robert Innes Hopkins.
Lighting: Tim Mitchell.
Sound: Ian Dickinson for Autograph.
Music: Stephen Warbeck.
Dialect: Majella Hurley.
Voice: Alan Woodhouse.