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Posts Tagged ‘Katie West’

Peter Gill is better known as a director, and a lot less prolific as a playwright, but he’s written a handful of very good plays, of which this is one of the best. First seen in 2002 at the Royal Court, revived just seven years later at the Riverside Studios, which Gill founded, and now nine years on at the Donmar Warehouse in what might be the best of the three.

Farm labourer George lives with his widowed mother in their tied cottage, with his sister Barbara, husband Arthur and their three children in the nearby council estate. Neighbour Doreen persuades George to get involved in the York Mystery Plays where he meets Assistant Director John, up from London, with whom he develops an unlikely friendship and a clandestine relationship; this is the early sixties. It starts and ends after the relationship, moving back to the visit John makes at the beginning of their relationship, an evening after the show and then to George’s mothers’ funeral. It’s not until the end that we fully understand the intervening years.

The culture clash between city and country, North and South, thespian and farmer are deftly handled and the understated writing is matched by a restrained production and a set of beautiful, authentic performances. Robert Hastie’s staging is finely tuned and hugely sensitive. Peter Mackintosh has designed an evocative, realistic, intimate cottage, with the countryside projected high above. Ben Batt and Jonathan Bailey give wonderful, delicate, nuanced performances. Lesley Nicol is simply lovely as the archetypal working class loving Mother. Lucy Black is a down-to-earth Barbara who may be more knowing than we think, and Matthew Wilson her husband Arthur who isn’t knowing at all; both fine characterisations. Katie West beautifully conveys neighbour Doreen’s yearning for George, and there’s an auspicious stage debut from Brian Fletcher as young Jack. A faultless cast.

This is an impeccable revival which draws you in to the world and lives of the characters and captivates you, proving conclusively that its a fine play indeed. This is why I go to the theatre.

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This play is about the abuse of a young girl in a nameless country at war. Married off, imprisoned and set to a life of child prostitution, Lela tells us her story with an occasional appearance from the men in her horrid life. An urgent and important story that I felt was debased by a gimmicky production.

Lela is played as a sweet little English girl in a pretty frock with a charming regional accent. The stage has a lurid red curtain backdrop, a black leather bench, a swinging cradle chair and her name in neon. The man wears a bright gold suit. They engage with the audience, at one point handing out candy-floss. This is clearly intended to heighten our horror, but it felt more disrespectful to me. There were also long periods of virtual darkness which seemed pointless. The combined effect was to reduce the emotional impact of the story, rather than amplify it as I think is intended. I’m afraid it left me cold.

There’s no denying Katie West’s achievement, on stage for ninety minutes, speaking for most of it. Cordelia Lynn’s writing is good too, but for me neither are served well by Jude Christian’s production. I did however appear to be a bit of a lone voice, so don’t take my word for it!

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