by Arnold Wesker.
Donmar Warehouse 41 Earlham Street WC2H 9LX To 30 November 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 23 Nov 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1.30pm).
Captioned 18 Nov.
Runs 2hr 50min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7624.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 October.
A Roots that digs deep.
Among the work of playwrights gathered around the Royal Court Theatre in the late fifties, Arnold Wesker’s always had hope at their heart, as James Macdonald’s revelatory revival shows in spades. This production’s slow, ever-involving style inhabits a world more than it tells a story.
Darkening the surrounds of this central section from Wesker’s Trilogy (first seen at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre in 1959) only makes it shine more clearly. Draining the action of forward propulsion, Macdonald and his unselfish cast achieve a sense of rural stolidity and continuity mixed with insecurity.
Ian Gelder’s Bryant switches off a lamp; peasant meanness but also a reminder of poverty. Pearl’s argument with Mrs Bryant barely gets started but the financial drive behind selling to relatives from ‘the catalogue’ is clear. Emma Stansfield’s resentment and Linda Bassett’s pugnacious defensiveness hang in the air as environment for Beatie’s disappointment.
Which, Wesker shows, is the making of her. The family that has little to say to each other around the tea-table laid to greet Beatie’s boyfriend (never has the play seemed more like ‘Waiting for Ronnie’) exists in a world where ignorance, dullness and the death of a dirty (in more than one way) old man are matched by the low, dark rooms; evening is combated in the first scene by a lamp straight out of Ibsen. Countryside is glimpsed distantly in Dick Straker’s video images as relentless territory challenging its cultivators’ spirits and backs alike.
Jessica Raine shows Beatie brightening, through her bath, party-frock and finally finding her own voice straight after puzzling her family with one of Ronnie’s moral problems. It gives the sense of a lot of talk in London bedsits. And it highlights her final breakthrough. She misses him, but she meets herself.
Most revelatory is Linda Bassett’s portrait of Beatie’s mother, the East Anglian female equivalent to an R S Thomas peasant. Bassett’s every word is drawn like a turnip from the ground, yet, ever-busy, she persists, season on season, enduring against the slow attrition of life, at once admirable and objectionable. Though Bassett herself is only the first of those.
Jenny: Lisa Ellis.
Jimmy: Michael Jibson.
Beatie: Jessica Raine.
Stan Mann: David Burke.
Mrs Bryant: Linda Bassett.
Mr Bryant: Ian Gelder.
Mr Healey: Nic Jackman.
Frank Bryant: Carl Prekopp.
Pearl: Emma Stansfield.
Director: James Macdonald.
Designer: Hildegard Bechtler.
Lighting: Guy Hoare.
Sound: Ian Dickinson for Autograph.
Video: Dick Straker.
Dialect coach: Penny Dyer.
Movement: Kate Flatt.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Oonagh Murphy.