by William Inge.
New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 19 February 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.15pm.
Audio-described 19 Feb 2.15pm.
Captioned 15 Feb.
Post-show Discussion 15 Feb.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 February.
Makes this Stop a moving experience.
Deep in the middle of America’s dreaming 1950s playwright William Inge deposited a group of passengers in the mid-west, during a road-blocking snowstorm.
A crime writer could have made a killing or two in such a scene; one more politically-minded might have brought up a microcosm of social tensions. But Inge focuses on individual people behind their personae. This can be humorous, in the case of Abigail McKern’s self-reliant owner Grace (for ‘Bus Stop’ don’t think pole with sign, but a small-scale version of a motorway service area). The snow allows her to act on her liking for driver Carl.
As that takes her out of her lonely world, where she’s only been ordering the food she likes, Grace helps keep bright but innocent (this was the mid-west in the 50s) young assistant Elma from becoming an older man’s sexual victim. Beth Park overcomes an initial look of someone older than her character as she lets her hair down, bringing a sweetly enthusiastic – well, grace – to her character.
Patrick Driver wisely restrains his alcohol-sustained old Lothario, grotesquely playing Romeo to Elma’s Juliet in the last-act cabaret. Director James Dacre’s sensible to encourage this restraint, though Driver’s scene snoring on the sidelines indicates a problem doing this play in the round.
On a proscenium characters not currently in the foreground can mooch around seats and bar; here, wherever they’re mooching they tend to be first in line of sight for some audience members. But the split-focus this can bring is a small thing compared with the energy of Dacre’s cast, including Louise Dylan’s blonde chantoose coming to terms with Philip Correia’s Bo, the farmer whose adoration as he abducts her in the belief she wants to come with him proves love, whether or not blind, is certainly deaf.
Strong work too from Simon Armstrong’s quietly strong friend to Bo, and a whole history suggested in Tom Hodgkins’ sheriff. Hodgkins’ fine performance matches assured strength with learned wisdom, in a character who long ago came to terms with himself, as so many others do in their one-night stand at Inge’s Bus Stop.
Virgil Blessing: Simon Armstrong.
Carl: Brendan Charleson.
Bo Decker: Philip Correia.
Dr Gerald Lyman: Patrick Driver.
Cherie: Louise Dylan.
Will Masters: Tom Hodgkins.
Grace: Abigail McKern.
Elma Duckworth: Beth Park.
Director: James Dacre.
Designer: Libby Watson.
Lighting: Emma Chapman.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Dialect Coach: Charmian Hoare.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Paschale Straiton.