by Edna O’Brien.
Richmond Theatre To 13 March.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7651.
then Theatre Royal Bath 15-20 March 2010.
Mon-Wed 7.30pm Thu-Sat 8pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 01225 448844.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 March.
A fine mess of tangled emotions, and the last chance to catch outstanding performances.
One place not being haunted by this production is London’s West End, plans for a London run (other than this Richmond week) having been shelved. A pity, as Edna O’Brien’s script is innately dramatic in the space it gives three fine performers to develop their sad and empty characters, often with an admixture of humour.
And Braham Murray’s production has gained somewhat in scenic detail in moving from the round at the Royal Exchange, its Manchester birthplace, to proscenium arch touring theatres, even if the wrap-round audience suited the O’Brien’s fluid, intensely personal script better than the sense of presentation on the touring stages.
Never mind; these three excellently-judged and contrasting performances become increasingly compelling as they unravel the relationship between long-married Jack and wife Gladys, when young Hazel happens into his life. In their Blackheath home, the older couple might be emblems of the contrast between Celtic and Anglo-Saxon temperaments. Jack’s all dreamer, sitting at home, enlivened by Hazel’s visits, unaware she’s looking for paternal stability while he’s brought to life by her youthful attraction.
As he spins a fantasy, gives away his wife’s clothing, becoming more fancifully dressed himself, and takes Hazel for a day at the seaside, his rose-imaged view of love is earthed by the blowsy roses on the dresses Gladys wears as she trudges in from work, feet aching, fearing he’s run-up new debts, before turning angrily, and inaccurately on young Hazel, leading to a terrifying climax, Hazel fleeing in fear as Jack calls for on her to stay, his wife pushed to the floor.
The young woman’s real situation is present from the start in Beth Cooke’s quick, flat speech and sense of detachment. Lolloping in and out, weariness and wariness in her voice, alternately sharp-edged with anguish and coated with scorn, Brenda Blethyn’s Gladys combines defeat, defiance and affection. And Niall Buggy’s Jack finds behind the fantasist and cheat a need for love that has him at times leaping vigorously, at others sitting, still and silent, defeat and despair on his face. Stylised yet piercingly honest, it’s a performance to haunt the memory.
Mrs Berry: Brenda Blethyn.
Mr Berry: Niall Buggy.
Hazel: Beth Cooke.
Director: Braham Murray.
Designer: Simon Higlett.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound: Pete Rice.
Composer: Akintayo Akinbode.
Video: Jack James.
Fight director: Renny Krupinski.