THE DRUM, THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH – 1 DECEMBER 2018
THE KNEEBONE CADILLAC by Carl Grose
RUNNING TIME 1 hour 30 minutes – no interval
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 19 NOVEMBER 2018
In his programme note, writer Carl Grose explains how he wanted to offer a theatre audience a view of his native Cornwall that might fly in the face of common perceptions. Thus, his new play is set in a junkyard beside the stock car racing track at United Downs, just East of Redruth. You could be forgiven for thinking that it was set somewhere in the Wild West as we meet the Kneebone Family – who have more than a little of the Beverley Hillbillies about them (should you remember them for TV!)
The play opens with the burial, in the middle of the junkyard, of Head of the Family, Jed, leaving his three children – Maniac Slick, Dense Dwight and Ballsy Maddie who has to take charge of the future of the trio and find a way of clearing the debts incurred by Jed and the money owed by Dwight after a drug deal goes very wrong. Her desire to win the big stock car rally, the Boneshaker, in the broken-down old Cadillac, her Father gifted to her, is just the start of her plans.
Along the way we meet a number of eccentric characters as the odds of salvaging something for the family stack up against them. As the play hurtles towards its conclusion further revelations about Jed and a number of other mysterious people provide an appropriate and fitting climax to the strains of Ennio Morricone’s ‘Ecstasy of Gold’.
This play and its production is truly the product of people who know and understand the most important tenet of theatre – to entertain. Where others trade in pretention, this is full of invention. Where others dictate, this sets out the create and elate. Every single individual involved in it should receive warm applause. As a reviewer one has to sit through some incredible dross. Not so here. After 90 minutes I was sorry we reached the end.
Carl Grose has created his other Cornwall with wit and warmth and with wonderfully funny local references. His writing is straight from the heart and from the hip; he doesn’t mince his words. And his words are so often laugh out loud funny – which I did with abandon. A better script I doubt I will come across for a while to come.
Simon Stokes directs with a wonderfully light hand on the tiller. The production moves freely and easily along with variants in pace and tone just right to engage the audience and not let them go – often quite a feat when you are not having an interval. This is a craftsman at work with a real love for his job.
As set designs go, this one blasts so many out of the park. The Drum’s stage is very high floor to ceiling with the audience raked steeply and looking down on the action Bob Bailey has created huge, extraordinarily crafted, vertical frames displaying pieces of cars, old bedsteads, a fan and other bits and pieces and on the stage we have a number of shells of vehicles – including the said Cadillac. As backdrops go – they don’t get better. An absolute masterpiece.
Sound and lighting are intricately designed by Andy Purvis and Dom Coyote respectively. These are essential parts of any production, but here too the work is of the highest order.
Keeping control of the Kneebones, Hannah Traylen gives the audience a wonderfully gutsy and likeable Maddy. Often narrating the tale to us, she is the glue which holds story together. It is a lovely, confident performance. Callum McIntyre as Slick does a very good line of being on the edge – he is a really strong actor with excellent timing and stage presence. Nice but dim Dwight is also in the right hands. A bang-on performance by Joe Wiltshire Smith who has some of the funniest lines – not least with his sidekick Ennis – a very promising professional debut from Shaun Jenkinson. Portraying Jed. amongst others, Glyn Pritchard, displays great versatility as does Emily Raymond as the mad Kneebone aunt and the former champion stock car racer Phylis Vanloo – a splendidly eccentric and hilarious creation. Top notch cast.
This is a Theatre Royal Plymouth production and one which they should be enormously proud of. In the last few months I have witnessed productions by the youth arm of the theatre and the creation of productions like this. It is a very important training and development theatre which is providing the people of the South West (and elsewhere) with a very high standard of entertainment.
You will be able to tell that I very much enjoyed The Kneebone Cadillac – no, I absolutely loved it!
Just go and see it – you will not be disappointed.
A wonderfully written and performed crock of comedy gold.
Shaun Jenkinson – Ennis Muroe
Callum McIntyre – Slick Kneebone
Glyn Pritchard – Jed Kneebone, Hooper Munroe, Duke Longhorn
Emily Raymond – Phylis Vanloo, Loretta Kneebone
Hannah Traylen – Maddy Kneebone
Joe Wiltshire Smith – Dwight Kneebone
Director – Simon Stokes
Set & Costume Designer – Bob Bailey
Lighting Designer – Andy Purves
Sound Designer & Composition – Dom Coyote