Down & Out in Paris and London
Inspired by the memoir of George Orwell & Polly Toynbee’s Hard Work

New Diorama Theatre, to May 14
15-16 Triton Street,
Regents Place,
London, NW1 3BF.

Tues-Sat 7.30pm; Sat mats 2.30pm

Runs: 90 mins no interval.

TICKETS : 0207 383 9034 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting           

Review: by Carole Woddis of performance seen April 20, 2016:

Excellent adaptation, tremendous vitality
Today it might be termed poverty tourism, but when George Orwell moved to Paris in the late 1920s and subsequently wrote his memoir of living below the breadline, it was with serious intent.

At least, David Byrne’s excellent adaptation, intertwining excerpts from Orwell’s Down & Out with Polly Toynbee’s 2003 account, Hard Work, of living in London for several month as unemployed and homeless, accords Orwell a form of integrity, albeit a complex one. As played by Richard Delaney’s slightly prim but earnest Eric Blair – later to be George Orwell – you can be in no doubt he’s on a mission to improve his lot as a writer whilst having his eyes opened to life on the wrong side of the tracks.

`I’m Eric Blair, I’m a bad writer’, he declares at the beginning `but I will become George Orwell and a better writer’. His Paris experience will be the making of him.

Thus the outlines of this literary education in a staging that so entertainingly confronts the moral efficacy of Orwell and Toynbee’s journey. It’s one thing to witness and record poverty and the dehumanising systems that inhibit self-improvement and social mobility. It’s quite another to know, like war correspondents, there is an escape hatch.

More power then to Byrne who first staged Down & Out in Edinburgh last year and has enlarged it to ninety minutes for London in a production of tremendous vitality and a Gogolesque relish for larger-than-life colour.

Characters appear as if popping out from the pages of a book, from underneath beds, inside bed clothes in slightly manic fashion, particularly in the episode of Orwell’s stint in a hotel kitchen.

Part Wesker’s The Kitchen, part Stephen Frears’ Dirty Pretty Thing, it’s a world marked by exploitation and underpay similarly alluded to in Toynbee’s unskilled jobs in a factory and as a hospital worker where she is advised not to work too fast because of putting permanent workers in a poor light.

Toynbee provides the grit in this theatrical feast which serves to remind us vividly how little has changed in ninety years and how much we take for granted by those in the service industries.

Down & Out in Paris and London
Inspired by the memoir of George Orwell & Polly Toynbee’s Hard Work

Ragged Man, Job Centre Manager, Chef, Pawn Shop Owner/Brighthouse Salesman: Mike Aherne
George Orwell: Richard Delaney
One-Eyed Jules, Boris: Andy McLeod
The Artist, Johno, Young Waiter, Communist Publisher, Breakfast Chef, Charlie: Andrew Strafford-Baker
Madame F, Polly Toynbee
Russian Mother, Housing Officer, Carole, Temp Agency Worker, Mistress, Porter, Consultant: Stella Taylor

Writing & Direction: David Byrne
Edinburgh Festival run directed with: Kate Stanley
Assistant Director: Natalie York
Dramaturgy: Kate Bassett
Costume: Ronnie Dorsey
Lighting: Catherine Webb
Sound & Music: Dominic Brennan
Operated by: Penny Rischmiller

Producer & Stage Manager: Helen Matravers
Executive Producer: Sophie Wallis

Presented by New Diorama Theatre & Greenwich Theatre

First performance of this version of Down & Out in Paris and London, April 19, 2016;
Subsequently at Greenwich Theatre, May 17-21, 2016-04-21

Original, shorter version first presented at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe.

For more info:

2016-04-22 16:01:13

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