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Posts Tagged ‘Calvin Demba’

Shortly after I saw the 1984 revival of this play in the West End, Leonard Rossiter, who played Inspector Truscott, died in the wings waiting to go on. All very Ortonesque, but I do hope Christopher Fulford survives this run! It’s around fifty years since it’s premiere and playwright Joe Orton’s death at the hands of his partner Kenneth Halliwell. This excellent revival is a superb opportunity to see it again, or for Loot virgins to see it for the first time.

It’s set in a room in the McLeavy home, where the recently deceased Mrs McLeavy lies in her coffin while her husband and nurse mourn her. Her son Hal and his friend, junior undertaker Dennis, have robbed a bank. What follows is a farcical, manic, absurd and surreal caper revolving around them hiding the money. Originally mounted before censorship was scrapped, the Lord Chamberlain insisted on a number of cuts and changes, including a dummy for the deceased, but here a brilliant Anah Ruddin lies in, and is removed from the coffin, relocated and thrown around.

This is apparently the first time the uncensored script has been staged. I don’t know the play well enough to spot the differences, but there are parts that still shock today. It satirises the police and the catholic church and sends up all sorts of societal norms. Michael Femtiman’s fast-paced production never lets up, and the play sparkles more that it has done before. I loved Gabriella Slade’s glossy black set (though the high level stained glass windows are a bit of a puzzle given we’re in a room in a home the whole time). It’s an outstanding cast, with both Sam Frenchum and Calvin Demba terrific as the sexually ambiguous Hal & Dennis respectively. I sometimes find Sinead Matthews overacts, but she can let go here as the predatory nurse with a past. Christopher Fulford has brilliant timing as Inspector Truscott and Ian Redford a suitable put upon McLeavy.

Well worth catching.

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Playwright Patrick Marber has shot himself in the foot by producing a very dull 50-minute first act. I’ve never seen so many people fail to return after the interval. What followed were two much better acts, but it never really recovered, for those who stayed.

We’re in the world of semi-professional football, in the changing room, so I was rather surprised to find it is a three-hander. There’s the manager Kidd, a bit of a spiv but he appears to have turned the team around. Then there’s the kit man John, a former player who fell on hard times. He’s a bit of a father figure who commands respect and love. Finally, there’s the new player Jordan who shows much promise. Scene-setting and character introductions are about all we get in this first act.

For those that did return, in the second act we see the murkier side of football, where people are on the make, more interested in business and money than sport. To many, the new boy is a commodity rather than a player and we realise the processes of realising value from such commodities are both formal and informal and complex. I’ve thought for ages that business has swallowed up football, but I hadn’t realised that included obscure semi-professional clubs. In the third act it all comes home to roost and John proves to be the only truly honest one, with his principles intact, and a love of the game and the club which overrides everything else. The ending is somewhat melodramatic.

Anthony Ward has created a high-ceilinged uber-realistic dressing room, complete with tacky signs and mud. This is one of Peter Wight’s very best performances, a deep and delicate characerisation of John. I’m a huge fan of Daniel Mays and he’s perfect for the role of the manager, though I felt he overplayed it occasionally. Calvin Demba continues to show the promise he showed in the even more disappointing Wolf at the Door at the Royal Court; let’s hope he gets a better role and play next time.

Seeing Closer at the Donmar last year made me realise what good plays Marber has written. He preceded this with Dealer’s Choice and After Miss Julie and followed it with Don Juan in Soho, but that’s nine years ago now. Perhaps he’s lost his mojo, or perhaps he’s too involved in semi-professional football himself to see the flaws in his own play, but I would have expected a director as good as Ian Rickson to have addressed that. There’s a much better, shorter, more evenly balanced play in here crying to get out. A disappointment.

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I’m struggling to understand why the Royal Court thought this was good enough to be staged there (mind you, it isn’t the first time I’ve thought that in recent years). Four very good actors in a very mediocre play.

Rory Mullarkey’s tale of armed insurrection in the UK starts with a meeting between a black boy and a posh woman on a deserted train platform. He appears to be some sort of Messiah and he’s not unexpected. Catherine, a Lady in the titled sense, invites him home. It isn’t for sex, as Leo at first thinks. She’s going to engineer his journey to power through uprisings of the most unlikeliest of groups like the Women’s Institute. It starts with a couple of murders and follows it’s absurdist trajectory from there to a new Britain.

Given the number of (short) scenes and locations, it is by necessity staged on a simple square platform with a projection screen behind and a couple of tents on either side, but Tom Pye’s design still seems a bit half-hearted, as did James Macdonald’s direction. Anna Chancellor is excellent, but why she took the role is beyond me. I was very impressed by Calvin Demba as Leo, who maintains his naive otherworldly expression throughout. Sophie Russell and Pearce Quigley provide excellent support in multiple roles, with some quick changes.

Maybe I’m missing something, but this all seemed a bit pointless. More like work-in-progress than a finished play. It was occasionally funny and often unpredictable but rather unengaging.

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