by Simon Stephens.
Lyttelton Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 24 March 2013.
7.30 14-16, 22, 23 Feb, 1, 2, 4-6, 11-14, 22, 23 March.
2.15pm 16, 23 Feb, 2, 6, 13, 23 March.
3pm 17, 24 Feb, 3, 24 March.
Audio-described 15 Feb; 16 Feb 2.15pm (+Touch Tour 12.45pm).
Captioned 23 Feb 2.15pm, 3 March.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 29 January.
Good play; pity about the theatre.
There are some choices made with the best of intentions that don’t necessarily work out to the subject’s best interest. So it is with Simon Stephens’ Port in Marianne Elliott’s National Theatre production.
It is Stephens’ love song to Stockport, in all its grimy, expletive-filled ugliness, a place as Paul Morley eloquently writes, people are keen to leave but in the end realise they never can, entirely. The play premiered in 2002, also directed by Elliott, at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre.
Author and director share Stockport as their birthplace. Affection for the piece, its hinterland and Elliott’s desire to see it given full due in a larger auditorium must have seemed a great idea at the time. But in the transfer to the Lyttelton and Elliott’s attempt to give it a heavy metal-operatic scale, something has certainly been lost.
Stephens’ On the Shore of the Wide World, another gritty northern family saga from three years later, given an exquisitely-tuned Exchange production by Sarah Frankom which transferred to the South Bank, slowly crept up on you by subtle stealth, Though Stephens’ writing promises to work the same magic here, the Lyttelton acoustics and design requirement simply scupper the intention.
Which is a shame, because opening and closing scenes apart, given an odd echoing indecipherability as spoken inside an onstage car, Port comes over as typical Stephens: raw, edgy, poignant. And real.
In Racheal (Kate O’Flynn), big sister to the barely coherent Billy, Stephens has also created a great central working-class character, a big-hearted survivor, abandoned by a mother, neglected by a father, beaten up by a husband, in love with the one pal who can’t quite return it. The scene between Rachael and Calum Callaghan’s stifled Danny is a beautifully constructed study in embarrassment and the impossibility of love, even between people who clearly do love each other.
Elsewhere, Elliott’s doubling-up casting confuses rather than illuminates but with designer Lizzie Clachan’s neon-lit immense concrete slabs, she gives the glum urban meeting grounds of hospital, bus stop and supermarket a Vorticist kind of grandeur.
Racheal Keats: Kate O’Flynn.
Billy Keats: Mike Noble.
Christine Keats/Anne Dickinson: Liz White.
Ronald Abbey/Man in N ursing Home/Jake Moran: John Biggins.
Jonathan Keats/Kevin Brake: Jack Deam.
Chris Bennett: Danny Kelly.
Lucy Moore: Katherine Pearce.
Danny Miller: Calum Callaghan.
Director: Marianne Elliott,
Designer: Lizzie Clachan,
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound: Ian Dickinson,
Movement: Scott Graham,
Company Voice work: Kate Godfrey,
Dialect coach: Richard Ryder,
Fight director: Kate Waters,
Associate lighting: Rob Halliday,
This production of Port opened at the Lyttelton Theatre London on 28 January 2013.