Tag Archives: Anthony Orme

The Ruffian on the Stair

The Ruffian on the Stair
★★★★

Hope Theatre

The Ruffian on the Stair

The Ruffian on the Stair

Hope Theatre

Reviewed – 31st January 2019

★★★★

 

“Orton’s words are still able to provoke the same levels of intrigue, laughter, and sympathy today that they did fifty years ago”

 

The Ruffian on the Stair gave notorious playwright, author, and library book defacer Joe Orton his first success. Today, it is rarely performed and somewhat obscured by his later work. And, whilst the play may be very much of its time, The Hope Theatre’s new production shows that his unique style of black comedy is as funny today as it was fifty years ago.

Mike (Gary Webster) was a promising young boxer – but what he does now is shrouded in mystery. All we know is that it involves a van and the attendance of meetings that will help him get “jobs”. His wife, Joyce (Lucy Benjamin), is a former prostitute who spends all day at home in the couple’s London flat. Their solitary existence is disrupted by the sudden arrival of Wilson (Adam Buchanan), a young man whose quest to rent a room devolves into a sinister plot to undermine their safety and exact a bizarre kind of revenge.

None of this sounds especially funny. But Orton’s singular style allows him to conjure a vaguely absurd version of real life that is both comic and tragic. For the most part, director Paul Clayton is able to draw out the many layers of irony to great effect. There are occasional moments where this feels heavy-handed, but it doesn’t seriously impact our investment in the story. It helps that the set (designed by Rachael Ryan) has an intimate, claustrophobic feel, with some audience members practically sitting in Mike and Joyce’s kitchen. Such close proximity keeps us engaged even when the pace slows down.

The three actors create multidimensional, sympathetic characters. Lucy Benjamin’s Joyce is both comically naïve and desperately afraid. Her excitement at the fact that her husband is meeting someone in an ‘exciting place’ like a toilet at King’s Cross station is balanced by her frustration at his refusal to acknowledge her anxiety. Gary Webster brings depth to thuggish Mike, balancing his cold-heartedness with a distinct sense of vulnerability. Webster and Benjamin have great chemistry: their performances suggest a couple whose love for each other has been corrupted by fear. Of the three, Adam Buchanan’s performance as Wilson is the most striking. He has the perfect mix of deceptive innocence and mild antagonism, and is able to switch from deadpan irony to sinister psychosis in seconds.

Whilst it is unlikely that The Ruffian on the Stair will ever be as popular as Loot or What the Butler Saw, The Hope Theatre’s production proves its worth as a piece of theatre. Orton’s words are still able to provoke the same levels of intrigue, laughter, and sympathy today that they did fifty years ago.

Reviewed by Harriet Corke

Photography by  Anthony Orme

 


The Ruffian on the Stair

Hope Theatre until 16th February

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Cockamamy | ★★★★ | June 2018
Fat Jewels | ★★★★★ | July 2018
Medicine | ★★★ | August 2018
The Dog / The Cat | ★★★★★ | September 2018
The Lesson | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jericho’s Rose | ★★★½ | October 2018
Gilded Butterflies | ★★ | November 2018
Head-rot Holiday | ★★★★ | November 2018
Alternativity | ★★★★ | December 2018
In Conversation With Graham Norton | ★★★ | January 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

V for Victory – 4 Stars

Victory

V for Victory

Stockwell Playhouse

Reviewed – 26th March 2018

★★★★

“they have succeeded in conveying a real sense of community and wartime resilience”

 

Claiming to be “an original take on the classic war musical”, V For Victory follows a group of young friends as they stand together in resistance against the German occupation of Jersey during the Second World War. The subject matter in itself is intriguing as there is a distinct lack of wartime musicals at the moment, let alone any documenting personal stories of the inhabitants of the Channel Islands during this period. Directed by Anthony Orme, this brief run marks V For Victory’s premiere and is “an abridged version displaying all of the musical elements of the show, with reduced scenes and narration throughout”.

From the moment the audience enter the performance space they are transported to the 1940s, with wartime songs such as “In the Mood” playing and simple, but effective, design elements on stage, such as wartime posters and the flag of Jersey.

Over the course of the production we are introduced to central characters and presented with their personal stories. There are some good performances from the actors in these roles, most notably Aaron Bannister-Davies (Thomas Carter), Georgina Rose Hanson (Liz Edwards) and Alex Wadham (Capt. Gunther Schneider). These actors give particularly engaging performances, coupled with strong vocals.

Aside from the strong individual performances, the most powerful moments in the production occur in the group musical numbers and scenes. All cast members’ voices blend well together and they have succeeded in conveying a real sense of community and wartime resilience. The close-knit relationships and bonds the characters share are clear to see.

Accompanying the actors’ vocals is a backing track, as well as live keyboard accompaniment from Composer, Günther Fiala. This occasionally overpowers the vocals and makes it difficult to hear some of the lyrics, but is something that can be easily fixed.

Although a condensed version of the full production, this premiere of V For Victory packs a punch. Some characters could perhaps do with a bit of development but, if Now You Know Productions go on to stage the musical in full, this could no doubt be done. Overall, V For Victory is a powerful production, highlighting an important period of history and the strength and determination of the people of Jersey during such challenging times.

 

Reviewed by Emily K Neal

Photography by Anthony Orme 

 

Stockwell Playhouse

V for Victory

Stockwell Playhouse

 

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com