Peter Gill, playwright and theatre director
Herald review
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The York Realist

by Peter Gill

Royal Court, London

Review by Carole Woddis, The Glasgow Herald, 18 January 2002

Peter Gill writes extraordinarily affecting plays. There may be a kind of sameness about them — in the attention to detail, in the pacing, in the naturalism. But each one always bears its own mark of distinction, the mark of Gill — a kind of sweetness. In The York Realist, presented by Stephen Unwin's English Touring Theatre, it begins as almost a parody of itself. Well, says George, a good-looking son of toil. Yes, says John, a visiting London actor. Aye, says George again. And so it goes, like a parody of D H Lawrence, the writer revived by Gill so memorably in the 1960s and 1970s. Then again, The York Realist is actually set in the 1960s and is touched by the same seismic changes Gill himself would have witnessed as a young associate at the Royal Court in the grip of the working-class ascendancy. You could call it the slow burr. George doesn't go in for speechifying; nor do his relatives — sister, Barbara; mother; brother-in-law, Arthur; nephew, Jack; and "little helper" Doreen. It's all there in the cadences of speech — the tight, numbingly -little, chapel-dominated, "put-kettle-on" lives. And, given the presence of Anne Reid (of Victoria Wood's Dinnerladies fame), sometimes it comes perilously close to stereotype.

But Gill is far too sensitive a craftsman to fall into that trap. What marks The York Realist out is its unagonised treatment of homosexuality — nervous John, visiting York to help on a production of the Mystery plays, falls for monosyllabic but easy-in-his-skin George (a hypnotic Lloyd Owen) — cast into a framework where issues such as life choices, class, family duty, roots take quite as much precedence. Old-fashioned, even tragic, it speaks volumes to us about our noisier, gaudier,

Copyright 2002 Scottish Media Newspapers Limited


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