by Jim Cartwright.
The Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Sloane Square, London to 9 September 2017.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: William Russell 28 July.
Our Friends Up North – booze, bicker and survive
This revival of Cartwright’s play thirty years on in which he looks at a community in a road somewhere up north is set at the height of Thatcherism when life was hard, people hard, jobs were scarce and the Northern Powerhouse was undreamt of. Directed by John Tiffany it still packs a punch to the gut and gets splendid performances from a first rate cast doubling and trebling in some cases the roles. If there is a flaw it is that northern accents can be dense and not everything they say comes across with the clarity the theatre demands. The laughter was sometimes patchy as those who understood got it, and those who didn’t knew they had missed something.
Tiffany and designer Chloe Lamford have set it in a barren brick walled world in which, mid stage a glass walled box rises. Sometimes people end up on top dancing, spewing, hurling insults at folk in the street below, inside it opens up for scenes of domestic warfare, despair, seduction, and partying. A flight of steps leads down to the front row of the stalls so that somehow everyone is swept in to the production. Lemn Sissay as Scullery acts as compere, commenting on the goings on and at one point engaging in an amazing and hugely effective dance with a shopping trolley, a symbol of devastation of the time and of now.
Two women go home with two young men, drink wine and resist what was the reason for going back; a young jobless man takes to his bed in despair and refuses to eat; an older woman collects a drunk soldier in the pub and takes him home; the chip shop goes bust. It is 1980, but by and large nothing much has changed – mobile phones and the social media are all that is lacking. A rousing collection of songs of the time support the goings on. The play may be three decades old but it is as fresh as if it were written now.
Helen/Marion/Brenda: Michelle Farley.
Brian/Jerry: Mark Hadfield.
Louise/Clare: Faye Marsay.
Eddie/Skin-Lad: Mike Noble.
Brink: Dan Parr.
Scullery: Lemn Sissay.
Molly: June Watson.
Carol/Valerie: Liz White.
Joey: Shane Zaza.
All other parts played by members of the company.
Director: John Tiffany.
Designer: Chloe Lamford.
Lighting Designer: Lee Curran.
Sound Designer: Gareth Fry.
Movement Director: Jonathan Watkins.
Voice & Dialect Coach: Charmian Hoare.
Costume Supervisor: Lucy Walshaw.