MAGNIFICENCE, 4STAR****, London, to 19 November

by Howard Brenton.
4Stars ****

The Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED to 19 November 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2 hrs One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
Review: William Russell 30 October.

Thrilling revival finely acted
First seen in 1973 at the Royal Court with the sort of cast one can only dream about today this polished and interesting revival, the first professional one since then, shows the play stands the test of time remarkably well.

It deals with a group of young left wing activists taking over an empty house to protest about the homeless, still an issue, and how they clash with the forces of law and order. One of them, Jed, an intense Joel Gillman, goes to prison and emerges radicalised and angry. He has turned dangerous.

The protesters are a bit tame, naïve even, by today’s standards and far from media savvy as they would be now. It is also never really clear why it is Jed, who does not seem the leader of the group, is the one turns into a walking time bomb. But the play is what it is.

Director Josh Roche has staged it effectively, and secured first rate performances from his cast.

The best section comes at the start of the second act when we leave the squat for the sun kissed fields of academe and join Babs (Howard B Morse), an ancient Tory peer and former Cabinet minister, now something grand in a Cambridge College, who is entertaining his protégé, a suave Cabinet minister nicknamed Alice (Tim Faulkner). The old man is dying. The two go for a trip in a punt. The conversation is silky, nuanced and spellbinding, as are the performances. It is a picture of a political class still with us.

After Jed and Alice meet – the squatters bullied by Jed have a new scheme – things turn very nasty indeed. Brenton’s arguments get a bit confused at times, but much of the play is as relevant about the state of British society as it was in 1973. The toffs are still there, the radicals are still protesting, albeit more professionally and in more dangerous ways, and as much out of touch with the people they are acting for as ever. Things have changed – the women in particular are of then, not now, and watch how they fail to connect with the real homeless man occupying their squat – but this is a substantial contribution to the Finborough’s record of reviving noteworthy neglected plays.

Will: Will Bliss.
Mary: Daisy Hughes.
Jed: Joel Gillman.
Cliff: Tyson Douglas.
Veronica: Eva-Jane White.
Old Man/Babs: Hayward B Morse.
Constable/Alice: Tim Faulkner.
Slaughter/Lenin: Chris Porter.

Director: Josh Roche.
Designer: Phil Lindley.
Lighting Designer: Joe Price.
Sound Designer: Hugh Sheehan.
Costume Designer: Avra Alevropoulou

2016-10-31 15:25:06

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