Review: The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios

“How do you know you are God?” 
‘Simple. When I pray to Him, I find I am talking to myself.’”

When a revival of a play is prefaced by “rarely-seen”, it’s hard not to assume that there’s often good reason for that and so it felt with Peter Barnes’ The Ruling Class. As a piece of drama, it feels dated and heavy handed, its formerly satirical edges altogether too manic and blunted. But as a piece of theatre, it has a peach of a leading role for which Jamie Lloyd has renewed his Trafalgar Transformed relationship with James McAvoy, who delivers it with an often breathtaking stage presence.

His 14th Earl of Gurney is a paranoid schizophrenic aristo called Jack who thinks he is Jesus and inherits the family pile after his father’s suicide, much to the consternation of his relatives. But even as they plot with a psychiatrist to get him shut away, Jack finds his way to (relative) sanity and locates a new target for his considerable energies – the House of Lords. That it is the aristocracy bearing the brunt of much of Barnes’ bite makes it clearer to see why the play has languished rather, its class-based pointedness showing its age. Continue reading “Review: The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios”

Review: REDfest, Old Red Lion

“Drama is life with all the dull bits cut out”

REDfest is a new festival hosted at the Old Red Lion Theatre celebrating “the very best in new writing” Over 100 short plays were submitted, and they’ve been whittled down to the best 18 which are being presented here in three groups of six. Audiences have the opportunity to rank the six plays they’ve been in order of preference and the top two from each group will be invited to return for the final week, where they will play again and a winner selected. The victorious playwright will then be invited to write a full length work for the theatre next year.

Group 1 featured a slightly reduced line-up: John Grogan’s Old Street was M.I.A. but the other five more than made up for it with an eclectic mix of new writing dissecting everything from strained relationships, alien abductions and acting classes. Given that these were only short pieces, it was interesting to see the hugely different ways in which the playwrights set about their task and with a varied degree of success. The stronger ones were those that pulled us into their little worlds and gave hints about what might have happened before and hopefully leaving us wanting to find out more, but focusing on telling a strong story at the centre of it all. Continue reading “Review: REDfest, Old Red Lion”