Tuesday, 21 May 2013


Theatre Royal Stratford East


Written & directed by Rikkie Beadle-Blair

Louise Jameson and Frankie FItzgerald
On entering the Theatre Royal Stratford East, you immediately notice that the plush curtains have been removed from the stage and in their place a mirrored wall, which like a safety curtain, rises as the play begins. Rikki Beadle-Blair who directs as well as writes has a clear message. Gutted will mirror parts of society and that however hard it may be, watching his play is to take a look at either ourselves, or at components of our communities alongside whom we live.

This is a strikingly innovative piece of drama. The four Prospect brothers, their mother Bridie and their relationships with their partners, are tracked from twenty-something years ago, to the present. The writing is gritty and very coarse. Eye-wateringly funny knob-gag humour, never once gratuitous nor out of context, sits side by side with deeply harrowing revelations of abuse. This is a story of damaged people trying to find their way in the world and more often than not making wrong decisions along their journeys.  Through Beadle-Blair's text, in which nearly every character with only few exceptions is damaged goods, we watch how over the course of lifetimes, decisions are made, that are often at best no more than shoddy compromises and at worst a series of blind-eyes being turned to horrendous acts of evil.

The performances are all flawless and several are outstanding. Louise Jameson is the widowed Bridie, a loving, supportive and feisty mother and grandmother. She is the rock of the Prospect clan albeit with a complex past and it is not until her spectacular, raw,  denouement scene towards the end of act two, that we understand how she has hardened herself to have survived a life of continued misery, mixed with a surprising combination of profound understanding of what has occurred around her and also encompassing a mind  boggling talent for denial. Rarely has one character earned in turn not only our sympathy but also our contempt.

Frankie Fitzgerald shines as middle son Mark Prospect, most notably when, acting as his younger self and as a child who has not been subjected to the sexual abuse that his siblings have endured, expresses his own low self-worth and inadequacies as to why he is not attractive to the abuser. Through snatches of such distressing dialog does Beadle-Blair reveal a world that is fatally flawed. Later in life when Mark learns that his own infant children are being abused, the horror of his comprehension combined with the manner in which he speaks to his terrified damaged kids, is deeply moving. The performance is all the more astonishing given that there are in fact no children up on stage and Fitzgerald is speaking to empty space. Sadly, his performance is so good that we can painfully conjure up the images of the youngsters in our minds eye.

James Farrar and Jennifer Daley
Jennifer Daley's Lucy Lockwood is another fascinating and ultimately morally bankrupt character. She is a young woman drawn to brother Matthew Prospect (played by James Farrar) and so in love with him that not only is she accepting of his damaged sexual history, she is prepared to support his warped cravings, offering to "breed lovers" for him. She portrays her character so un-sensationally that when we hear her make that hellish offer, one that so rails against the basic precepts of maternal love and protection for a child that rather than be shocked, we weep. Lucy is one of the most complex and profoundly selfish characters created for the stage in recent years

Beadle-Blair's writing is a requiem for Britain's victims of moral depravation, though he does sow some seeds for hope and redemption, via youth, in the final scenes. The Prospect family are a brood who have learned to satisfy their craving for love and respect via football, drugs, religious fundamentalism and abusive behaviour. Their sexualities are ambiguous, and any sexual respect for others that they might have had, was lost years ago. The play is uncomfortable, searching and also downright bloody brilliant. It deserves a transfer to a more central stage for a longer run. Soon.

Runs until May 25

No comments:

Post a Comment