THE SYNDICATE: Eduardo de Filippo trans Mike Poulton
Touring till 17 September
Runs 2h 45m, one interval
(Reviewed earlier at Chichester, here it is, now on tour)
Review: Malvern Theatres, 23 08 11, Rod Dungate
A greatly satisfying performance.
THE SYNDICATE feels very comfortable – and this isn’t a complaint. For a play about a Mafia boss, it’s strongly humane, with a warm comedic thread running through it. Yet it’s theme (the complexities within abuse and use of power) is powerful, as is its dramatic – some might say melodramatic – ending. It’s a play that feels older-generation; but, just as with people, it has much to give us if we care to receive. It also has two marvellous central performances – Ian McKellan as as Don Antonio, ageing Mafia boss, and Michael Pennington as Fabio Ragione, the Don’s doctor.
The play is also a fine example of ‘Don’t give up on a play at the interval.’ During the interval ‘Interesting, but so what?’ hangs strong in the air. But not so as the second half gets into gear, using the ground work so carefully put in place before the break.
McKellan’s Don is big, but beautifully understated. His status comes, not from himself, but from those around him; but McKellan’s authority leaves us in no doubt that he is not one to cross. Intriguingly, in this society, the Don is the only one who can afford to be magnanimous. It’s a compelling performance – stillness, power, humour; McKellan wears his character not as a coat, but as a skin. There is a stunning insight in the second half as the Don describes how he can’t really read – takes your breath away.
Set along side this is Pennington’s Doctor – elderly and virtually the Don’s prisoner in the ‘family’ circle. He can’t leave because the Don doesn’t want him to. Pennington’s performance is equal in scope to McKellan’s, but he is solid, unassuming, somehow more workmanlike. McKellan and Pennington complement each other perfectly.
This is a company full of talent. Among the younger actors Philip Correia as the slightly fey, designer son, Gennaro, makes his mark, and Gavin Fowler and Annie Hemingway bring both naive charm and nice sense of comedy to the troubled, engaged couple.
Jane Bertish: Immacolata
Margaret Clunie: Geraldina
Philip Correia: Gennaro
Michael Pennington: Doctor Ragione
Michael Stevenson: Palumiello
David Shaw-Parker: Catiello
Michael Thomson: Nait
Ian McKellen: Don Antonio
Brendan O’Hea: Vicienzo Cauozzo
David Foxxe: Pascale Nasone
Gavin Fowler: Rafiluccio
Annie Hemingway: Rita
Cherie Lunghi: Donna Armida
Mark Edel-Hunt: Amedeo
Oliver Cotton: Arturo Santaniello
David Shaw-Parker: Luigi
Margaret Clunie: Vicenza
Philip Correia: Peppe Ciucciu
Mark Edel-Hunt: Zibacchiello
Janet Spencer-Tuner: Nasone’s Wife
Sean Mathias: Director
Angela Davies: Designer
Tim Mitchell: Lighting Designer
Jason Carr: Music
Fergus O’Hare: Sound Designer
Gabriell Dawes: Casting Director
Jason Lawson: Assistant Director