The York Realist by Peter Gill
Nowt2Do.Com theatre review by Chris Cox
The Bristol Old Vic, November 2001
Peter Gill’s new play is not only a finely drawn love story; it also makes us think about the depth of class allegiances, the strength of the family, and the origins and ownership of art itself. Brought to us by the English Touring Theatre, the play is home to a highly experienced cast including Richard Coyle (Jeff in Coupling) Lloyd Owen (James in Hearts & Bones) and Anne Reid (Jean in Dinner Ladies.)
The story begins in 1960’s Yorkshire, John the middle class Londoner has come to York to work as an Assistant Director on an amateur staging of the Mystery plays and meets the working class George, who is acting in it. John wants George to leave York and move down to London with him. In George’s decision, Gill truly makes us think more deeply about the depth of English class allegiances, the meaning of family, and the complex relationship between London and the rest of the UK.
Gill’s story is quiet frankly, of blockbuster drama movie quality. The characters are so well written that they have complete, and convincing depth to them, and the cast must be praised along with Gill for that, because there is not a moment when you do not doubt the realism of the piece, it is Kitchen Sink Drama at its best.
The little twist in the tale, from the opening being the ending is so often used, and so obvious, yet it still manages to do wonders for this piece. The lifelike language is put together with the real effect of peering into someone’s house, the fourth wall is not once broken and the cast are not afraid to use silence, and spend time pouring tea. That created a real “Big Brother” style atmosphere to the show, and made the audience seem voyeuristic in this remarkable piece of drama. Tension was switched on and off like a light! Suddenly the cast, especially Lloyd Owen as George could change the whole mood of the piece, from light-heartedness to deep views of relationships, which once again shows the true versatility of the cast and the script. There are however moments when the cast spend too long in silence, while there is nothing for the audience to think about. Also the play just seems to be a tiny bit too short, where an extra 10 or 15 minutes could have unravelled a bit more of the story, but these are only very minor faults.
The warm and cosy house set, was added to be subtle, yet effective light changes. The scene of the 60’s was quickly set from a glace at the cast in their living environment. The strong accents didn’t once falter for the majority of the cast, however John (Richard Coyle) seemed to take a while to warm to his and pin it down. The out of this world Anne Reid, played a mother who was so realistic, her acting it seemed unreal. She dominated the part, and was truly realistic in every possible way. Humour was perfectly timed and played out, which made a great relief from the tension, which can suddenly appear on stage, through very few words. The whole cast are utterly commendable for producing tear jerking, life representing performances, with the three leads showing us the story and the rest of the cast brilliantly making up the surrounding family.
This is a play, which should be highly commended in as many ways possible, the brilliant book really shows you love in many forms; the cast are unparalleled in their brilliance producing a truly captivating and stunning piece of theatre. A modern play, set in the 60’s, a love story, between a gay couple, a glimpse of what could be true life, The York Realist is there for true theatre buffs and newcomers, to show them just how theatre should be.
The show will be transferring to London’s Royal Court very soon, and urge you be it in Bristol or London to catch a piece of captivating theatre.
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