Tag Archives: John Leonard

The Sunset Limited


Boulevard Theatre

The Sunset Limited

The Sunset Limited

Boulevard Theatre

Reviewed – 21st January 2020



“fiercely and fearlessly full of rich dialogue that explores some of the deepest questions of human existence”


“The Sunset Limited”, by the American novelist, playwright and screenwriter Cormac McCarthy, was originally published as ‘A Novel in Dramatic Form’. What distinguishes this from a play is uncertain. What is certain, though, is that the award-winning writer’s unique style infuses each word and phrase with customary flamboyant bleakness that holds our attention to an almost uncomfortable degree.

Devoid of any real theme or plot, it is fiercely and fearlessly full of rich dialogue that explores some of the deepest questions of human existence. In the past, McCarthy has admitted that he respects only authors who “deal with issues of life and death”. Indeed, his nihilistic, almost existential approach can be off-putting on the surface, but his command of language and colloquial style effortlessly draw us into this short, one act play. And once we are in, what keeps us there – in this case – are the performances of Gary Beadle and Jasper Britton who play the two nameless characters.

Referred to only by the colour of their skin, Beadle is labelled ‘Black’, while Britton is ‘White’. All the action (or inaction) takes place in Black’s sparse, run-down tenement building. Black is an ex-convict while White is a professor. Sounds predictable and insensitively black and white, but any potential stereotyping is rapidly subverted and quashed. Black is cheerful; an optimist and evangelical Christian while White is an irredeemably miserable atheist. It becomes clear in the opening scene that Black has saved White from throwing himself under a train. (The title of the play derives from the name of the passenger train – The Sunset Limited – that travels from New Orleans to Los Angeles). Black has taken White back to his apartment and taken it upon himself to save White from any further attempts at suicide.

Beadle and Britton captivate throughout as we watch them steer their way through the ensuing debate. Nothing happens, beyond drinking coffee, or Black serving up a dish of reheated Creole cuisine from his fridge. But we are shaken to the core by their two opposing worlds, and our ideas are shattered by the crashing waves of their argument. Just as we think we are safely buoyed up by Black’s rolling tide of positivity, we are dangerously dragged back by the undertow of White’s nihilism. It is a raging debate, but comical too. “I long for the darkness” utters White, “If I thought that in death, I would meet the people I knew in life, I don’t know what I’d do. That would be the ultimate nightmare”. Britton beautifully seizes on the savagery of this pessimism but with a deadpan glee that brings out the humour. Beadle’s bible bashing counter arguments come with as many absurd and self-deprecating twists that remind us that we are being entertained rather than preached at.

The two actors’ natural performances transform McCarthy’s writing into a kind of poetry. Director Terry Johnson pitches them together in a slow dance that keeps the rhythm flowing and echoing in our heads long after we leave the theatre. The questions it has kicked up refuse to settle. After all – there are no real answers for them to settle on. But we, the audience, have the easier task: we can safely discuss these questions of life and death in the bar after the show, leaving the characters on the stage to make the life or death decisions.

The outlook is pitch-black and harsh, and seemingly a dead end, but nowhere else is a journey to nowhere such a pleasure.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Marc Brenner


The Sunset Limited

Boulevard Theatre until 29th February


Last ten shows reviewed by Jonathan:
Wireless Operator | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | November 2019
42nd Street | ★★★★ | Upstairs at the Gatehouse | December 2019
Bells And Spells | ★★★★★ | The Coronet Theatre | December 2019
Teenage Dick | ★★★★ | Donmar Warehouse | December 2019
The Lying Kind | ★★★ | Ram Jam Records | December 2019
The Nativity Panto | ★★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | December 2019
Once | ★★★★★ | Fairfield Halls | January 2020
The Co-op | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | January 2020
The Long Letter | ★★ | White Bear Theatre | January 2020
Krapp’s Last Tape / Eh Joe / The Old Tune | ★★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | January 2020


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Other People’s Money

Southwark Playhouse

Other People's Money

Other People’s Money

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 23rd April 2019



“Lin Blakley stole the show as Bea Sullivan”


Blue Touch Paper Productions present Jerry Sterner’s 1989 drama-comedy with style and credence as audiences find out what men and women of all shapes, sizes and classes can do with Other People’s Money.

Touching base at a time when America is clawing its way back from the precipice of bankruptcy, we meet a coasting, family-run wire and cable company in New England who are about to have their business acumen and their morality tested by Wall Street tough guy Lawrence Garfinkle, a.k.a. Larry the Liquidator (Rob Locke). Friendly, neighbourhood business owner Andrew Jorgenson (Michael Brandon) and his company manager William Coles (Mark Rose) seek help from Jorgy’s secretary/no nonsense lawyer Kate Sullivan (Amy Burke) when Larry’s interest starts to cost more than smiles and doughnuts.

Director Katherine Farmer and designer Emily Leonard carefully align two contrasting offices opposite each other in traverse staging. The raked seating that straddles the stage allows the audience to spectate, jury-like as Garfinkle and Jorgenson play corporate hard ball on a sneakily camouflaged, faded tennis court flooring. As well as creating a cold, war room atmosphere, the confidently selected set throws into relief the essence of the two armies; the rich versus the poor. The modern, sleek, uncluttered desk of a tycoon facing down the, honest, simple hardwood workstation of a man’s livelihood.

Interestingly, it is easy to tell when the actors enjoy the scenes; Larry and Kate, though initially struggling to find each of their character’s presence on stage, give us a fun flavour of their chemistry together in the later scenes. However, the writing is wordy and difficult to navigate if you do not have a calculator for a brain or actors who liven up the figures.

Lin Blakley stole the show as Bea Sullivan, Jorgy’s steadfast secretary with a shining soul. Through her candid, controlled performance the audience are able to access the heart and true value of what family can mean in a company like theirs. Her relatable characterisation marries comedic timing and fierce emotion so easily making her a pleasure to watch and a home comfort to hold onto in the world of money madness.

This production successfully leads us to believe that the corporate world is killer, which begs the question: is it even possible for good people to do good business?


Reviewed by Vivienne King

Photography by Craig Sugden


Other People’s Money

Southwark Playhouse until 11th May


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Wasted | ★★★ | September 2018
The Sweet Science of Bruising | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Trench | ★★★ | October 2018
Seussical The Musical | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Funeral Director | ★★★★★ | November 2018
The Night Before Christmas | ★★★ | November 2018
Aspects of Love | ★★★★ | January 2019
All In A Row | ★★ | February 2019
Billy Bishop Goes To War | ★★★ | March 2019
The Rubenstein Kiss | ★★★★★ | March 2019


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