The north-south divide explored
by Kevin Bourke, Manchester Evening News, 15 November 2001
Receiving its world premiere at The Lowry last night before visiting London’s Royal Court next spring, this is a striking and thought-provoking work which will probably have the metropolitan critics drooling.
It is appropriate that it should have started its performing life in the north, as, even though it is primarily a love story, one of its key themes is the problematic relationship between London and the regions. It is written by actor/writer/director Peter Gill, himself one of that exciting band of talents who converged on the Royal Court Theatre in the fifties and sixties.
This was at a time when it was changing the face of British theatre and celebrating rather than frowning upon working class backgrounds and regional accents.
The play is set in the early sixties in a farm labourer’s cottage just outside York. Farm labourer George (Lloyd Owen) is cast in an amateur staging of the raw, passionate and essentially working-class York Mystery plays.
There he meets and falls in love with John (Richard Coyle), a middle-class Londoner who has travelled to York to act as assistant director of the production.
John wants George to move down to London with him, where he is working in the theatre (quite possibly the Royal Court). But George is torn by his loyalty to the place and people he also loves, his mother (Anne Reid), his sister Barbara (Caroline O’Neill) and her bluff husband Arthur (Ian Mercer), their tearaway son (Jack) and local girl Doreen (Wendy Nottingham), who is pursuing George even though she must suspect that he’s not, as they say, the marrying kind.
Often very funny, terrifically moving and thoroughly gripping, as well as being superbly acted, The York Realist is a triumph.
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