Friday, 22 October 2010
Really dirty kitchen sink drama
Clenching your cheeks to maintain equilibrium on a collapsible chair in the teeniest of London's fringe venues, it's not hard to believe you're a visitor to the abject little flat occupied by washed up opera singer John McLachlan in 'Bright Is The Ring Of Words' at Wilton's. After all, we are perched on the grottier edge of Limehouse and walking home in the moonlight I wondered how many similar unwanted and unloved pensioners were stacked in the tenements of Tower Hamlets I passed on the way to the station.
The opening banter follows a familiar pattern between the elderly and defiantly unwashed and the fussily dutiful carer who despairs at the filth and the adandonment of standards. So far so 'Steptoe and Son' except that John Garfield-Roberts plays Stanley as a mumsy recidivist whose combination of Lancastrian homilies derived from his beloved 'Nan' and occasional eruptions of violent anger are both wholly credible and endlessly watchable.
Jeffrey Mayhew never shies away from the actualities of his character's complete abandonment of personal standards. Retching and drooling and occasionally immobilized in a helpless contortion of pain and exhaustion, he engages the audience's curiosity and sympathy but spiked with an intellectual acerbity that keeps it mercifully free from pathos.
Although there are some great lines, and the comic moments are well-delivered, it's the authenticity of the central performances that holds your attention, and both the struggle over the alcoholic's grasp on the vodka bottle and the final catastrophe seemed entirely real to me.
This review written for www.remotegoat.co.uk