Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Brighton Rock - Northern Stage - Review

Brighton Rock 
Northern Stage
1st May 2018

Adapted by Bryony Lavery from the novel by Graham Greene
Directed by Esther Richardson
Music by Hannah Peel
Design by Laura Perks
Lighting by Aideen Malone

Brighton Rock is a dark thriller set in the night clubs and coffee houses of Brighton. In this production from Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal the staging is atmospheric, and dramatic. Each component adds to the overall effect - a brooding representation of Brighton Pier hunches over the stage, transforming from pier to bar, to nightclub, classy hotel to the gang's squat. It harbours the musicians playing soulful jazz and blues, threatening beats and the thump of hoof beats. Every change in the lighting, every sound - musical and percussive -adds something to the atmosphere and tension. Nothing is wasted.

We watch as Pinkie (James Jacob Beswick) - just seventeen years old  - fights to make his name and take his place in the hierarchy of gangland Brighton. Beswick swaggers across the stage, chest and chin out in a display of youthful yet chilling bravado. As his plans begin to unravel he becomes increasingly violent and threatening and his posturing increases to almost a caricature. He is violent and cruel and ambitious, scheming to keep control of the gang, he learns to distrust everyone and sees any kind of emotional attachment as weakness. He demands loyalty but lacks trust and in the end this turns everyone except Rose against him.

Against his darkness we have Rose (Sarah Middleton), naïve and loyal and utterly in love with Pinkie and Ida (Gloria Onitiri) older, worldly wise and moral. She is the force for good in the play - fighting for justice for the murdered Hale - a man she had known only a few hours. She sees the truth and fights for it. She fights for Rose and against Pinkie, despite the obvious danger. Her spirituality contrasts starkly with the repressive Catholicism of Pinkie and Rose. In her bright red dress she is a splash of bright colour on the stage, and a force for good in the play.

The play moves inexorably towards tragedy for Rose and Pinkie and yet there are moments of beauty and humour within it. The choreographed routines in the clubs perfectly evoke the sleazy, seedy Brighton night life, while Pinkie and Rose's wedding night scene is touchingly evocative and just for a moment we almost feel that he could be redeemed.

The ending is a suitably dramatic and suspenseful climax to a clever and thought provoking play.
It can be seen at Northern Stage until 5th May and then the tour moves on to Theatr Clwyd, Derby theatre and finally The Lowry, Salford.

Denise Sparrowhawk

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