KINGS: Hoffman-Gill, Nottingham Playhouse till 30th April

KINGS: Daniel Hoffman-Gill.
Nottingham Playhouse.
Runs: 2h 0m: one interval: till 30th April.
Performance times: 8pm (matinees Tues, Thurs and Sats 2pm)
Review: Alan Geary: 22nd April 2016.

Powerful and moving; and often funny.
Kings is set well and truly in Nottingham, at a sheltered home for men with physical and mental problems. There’s Elvis, a 24/7 impersonator in a Las Vegas outfit; Barry, a Down syndrome youth who comes in to help out; Big Dave, who lost an arm in the Falklands; Wayne, an epileptic preparing to leave the place; and Kirky, their de-facto shepherd, who might have some kind of Asperger syndrome.

They’re all being helped by a young social worker, Sarah.

From Daniel Hoffman-Gill, Kings is a powerful and moving, often funny play. There are no easy answers to the complex issues it raises; and no hand me down sentimentality. And it doesn’t subject its audience to cheap moral blackmail.

It shows the men as human, and humane, beings; not one of them has any illusions about himself or his fellow residents. They are loving comrades, trying in an often chaotic way to help each other.

Dominic Grove is wonderful as Kirky, with his streams of detailed knowledge and Cowper-quoting eloquence, and his convincing body and facial movements. And so is Tim Baggaley, as Big Dave. Psychologically wrecked by battle, he’s struggling with alcoholism, and the memory of his lost son, who died at the age of eight. When he tells the others about the little boy’s obsession with dinosaurs it’s heart-breaking.

Chris Lund is a first-rate Barry, making the tea and dutifully trying to rein in the four-letter words from the others. One of the funniest bits in the play is when he gets to hold up a pretend boom (it’s actually a broom) for Wayne’s farewell video.

On the negative side, Hoffman-Gill strikes a jarring note with an encounter between Big Dave and a working girl. Admittedly authentic, it’s out of kilter with the narrative flow and spirit of the rest of the play. And the evening only narrowly avoids collapsing into a clichéd tirade against the current austerity programme. But the message that we are all our brother’s keeper comes over loud and clear.

So does Kirky, when he tells the others “We’re Kings! I mean Special. And I don’t mean Special Needs!”

Big Dave: Tim Baggaley.
Wayne: Joe Doherty.
Sarah/Girl: Sophie Ellerby.
Kirky: Dominic Grove.
Barry: Chris Lund.
Elvis: James Warrior.

Director: Fiona Buffini.
Designer: Olivia du Minceau.
Lighting/Sound Designer: Martin Curtis.

2016-04-26 22:03:59

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