THE MARCH ON RUSSIA, by DAVID STOREY
An Orange Tree Theatre production in association with Up in Arms
Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, until 7 October, 2017.
2hrs 25 minutes with one interval
Review: Tom Aitken 12 September 2017
Compelling close-up theatre
David Storey’s life, which came to its end in March this year, was, one might say, a peculiar mixture of attitudes and occupations. Playwright, poet, novelist, professional rugby league player, son of a Yorkshire miner…
He was in various ways a violent man. The violence in his nature was not confined to words and thoughts. In 1976, the week after he had received generally unfavourable reviews for his play Mother’s Day, he came across a group of critics making their way to the Theatre Upstairs.
He accosted them angrily as a group, but singled out Michael Billington for cuffs around the ears and shouts of ‘Id-i-ot’. Irving Wardle felt obliged to to step in and restrain him.
(Michael Billington was, incidentally, present at this performance.)
Mr Passmore is a retired Yorkshire miner who continues to embody in his personality the resentment at how little he was paid when working. He is vigorously left wing. His wife seems to have married him solely because he was available. She is also working class but longs to be other than that. She votes conservative.
Their Golden Wedding has arrived. Neither of them is in any way longing to celebrate the event. They are less than enthusiastic when they find out that secret arrangements have been made by their offspring: two daughters and a son, who descend upon them without warning, bringing with them the trappings of celebration
For different reasons both Mr and Mrs Passmore are far from pleased, but eventually give way and go out, all dressed up, for a midday meal.
You may be wandering why the play is entitled ‘the March on Russia’. This refers to a small military incursion provoked by the outbreak of revolution, in which, as a military conscript, Mr Passmore had been involved. He resents, naturally, the fact that he, who supported the revolution, was forced to take up arms against it.
The play consists of a series of scenes that gradually lay out the virtual non-existence of of the Passmore’s marriage and the effects that this has had on them and their children. We are able to identify more clearly how the circumstances of their lives have undermined these people and their relationships.
It is frequently very funny but equally frequently very humanly sad.
It is also the kind of play that works very well in the close-up mode of the Orange Tree. Don’t miss it.
Colin Colin Tierney
Mr Passmore Ian Gelder
Mrs Passmore Sue Wallace
Wendy Sarah Belcher
Eileen Connie Walker
Director: Alice Hamilton
Designer: James Perkins
Lighting Designer: Nicholas Holdridge
Sound Designer: Harry Blake
Costume Designer: Sophia Simensky
Dialect Coach: Tim Charrington
Casting Consultant: Sophie Parrott CDG