Mercury Theatre, Colchester (Touring).
13 March 2018
Adapting material so well known and admired in literature and film is no easy task, but Bryony Lavery’s excellent version of Graham Greene’s classic novel shimmers with violence and tension. Superbly created by Pilot Theatre, director Esther Richardson and movement director Jennifer Jackson stage physicality of the highest order, with a terrific ensemble inhabiting a variety of roles to convey this tale of 1930s gangster underworld. Throughout composer Hannah Peel and musicians score the piece with evocative sounds and music from the period.
Central character Pinkie is thoroughly dislikeable, and not fully redeemed at the conclusion, but Jacob James Beswick perfectly captures Pinkie’s world collapsing around him through his excellent and increasing twitchiness. Committing murder and trying desperately to cover his tracks, he draws shy, innocent and vulnerable Rose into his web, a beautifully judged portrayal of youth and misplaced determination by Sarah Middleton. Lavery constantly reminds us how young these two characters are, she sixteen he seventeen, too young to be playing gangsters and happy families. We are taken into the story by Gloria Onitiri as Rose, determined to find out the truth, her red costume like a beacon of truth among the gloom and dirty mechanics of the underworld. Ironically, she seeks redemption and is a symbol of justice against the warped Catholicism of Pinkie, who believes that confession after murder will save him.
The multi-rolling is excellent, in particular Shamira Turner and Angela Bain who cross gender with confidence and conviction, and Chris Jack’s love struck Phil. They perform on yet another triumphant set by designer Sara Perks, capturing the steely decor of the pier, yet flowing brilliantly from scene to scene, and every level is played on. There are many set pieces that are thrilling and hugely watchable, particularly Rose and Pinkie’s love making on their wedding night, told through movement and music only. The piece only falters a little in the first half when the finer details of the plot are muffled through over exposition and some poor diction. However, the second half builds to a wonderful climax, and the show teems with atmosphere. Well worth catching, the show tours until the end of May.