THE DEVIL INSIDE HIM
by John Osborne.
White Bear Theatre 138 Kennington Park Road SE11 4DJ to 26 May 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 6pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7793 9193.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 May.
I once remonstrated with a director who’d cut the kiss between Jimmy Porter and Helena Charles at the end of a scene in John Osborne’s 1956 breakthrough play Look Back in Anger. The director argued it was inappropriately melodramatic.
Melodrama? In Osborne? King of the realistic excoriation of British society? But a more serious end of scene clinch between man and woman in this play from 6 years earlier, a script once produced then, until recently, forgotten, suggests Osborne could produce a traditional thrill when he wanted.
And, in the poetic Huw’s work here, there’s a hint of the dramatist who would soften his Anger with cosy talk of bears and squirrels. But there’s also the social sound, and fury.
The White Bear adds this to their production of Osborne’s early Personal Enemy, though Devil was revived last year by National Theatre Wales, no doubt owing to its Welsh valley setting.
Yet Osborne attacks traditional Welsh respectability as he’d later assault the English Establishment. Big lumbering Huw Prosser, an unlikely hero, inarticulate and shy, is ignored by his father and despised by the young local woman who helps with the Prosser’s guest-house.
When his raw yet inspired writings are found they’re angrily dismissed as filth by his father. Only English trainee doctor and would-be writer Burn recognises their quality. But it’s too late to prevent a crisis that destroys Huw’s prospects. And only in the closing moments can Ralph Aiken’s ever-sympathetic portrayal give voice to Huw’s lyrical imagination.
The other character who emerges is his mother; Judy Clifton, ever organising the home, beautifully captures her realisation her son’s in trouble in a moment of silence amid all the words. It gives her a new determination, defying the traditional dominance of her husband, whose authority soon begins to seem like bluster.
There might be more refinement in some performances, but all are reliable enough. And while a larger space, and possibly more rehearsal, might have made the flow of daily activity seem more convincing, director Hannah Joss handles matters efficiently and ensures the writing’s force is clear – even when it’s melodramatic.
Huw Prosser: Ralph Aiken.
Mr Prosser: David Broughton Davies.
Mrs Prosser: Judy Clifton.
Mrs Evans: Rosy Fordham.
Burn: Morgan James.
Dilys: Jessica Ashworth.
Mr Gruffuyd: Martin Bendel.
Mr Stevens: Steve Jesson.
Director: Hannah Joss.
0Designer: Olivia Ward.
Lighting: Mathew Bresin.
Sound: Joel Price.