Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Sign of the Times - Richmond Theatre

Sign of the Times by Tim Firth
Director: Peter Wilson

Reviewer: James Higgins

Tim Firth was originally commissioned by Alan Ayckbourn in 1991 to write a one act play (A Man of Letters) to be performed at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre. Fifteen years later we finally learn what became of the characters after the one act play had ended. A new two act version under the title 'Absolutely Frank' was performed in Scarborough at Stephen Joseph once more in 2006. Sign of the Times is the new title for 2009 and one of some significance in today's current climate.

In Sign of the Times we arrive on the roof of Forshaws, an electrical signage company. Frank Tollit (Stephen Tompkinson) has worked there for 25 years and is now head of installations and takes great pride in his position. We find him trying to stimulate some interest in the mind of a bored work experience student, 16 year old Alan. (Tom Shaw)

Despite Franks great sense of achievement in climbing the corporate ladder he would much prefer to be a writer of Spy stories like his literary hero John Le Carre. He is a keen amateur novelist and discovers that Alan has a hidden creative streak which provides a lot of the common ground throughout the play.

The rooftop set is well constructed and uses props (the letters) from the 1991 original. Director Peter Wilson takes us on a journey that is full of highs and lows, one minute making us laugh out loud, the next sitting in quiet reflection contemplating the sometimes sad reality of life.

Stephen Tompkinson was excellent in the lead role. He was utterly convincing throughout as the man of the world with a constant supply of advice to dish out to young Alan during the first act. Tom Shaw as Alan, much like his character, starts off very quietly but grows in stature and we get to know him much more in the second act.

Tompkinson and Shaw work in perfect unison to portray the comedy and pathos of their characters as they develop and change during each act. Sign of the Times was an enjoyable and entertaining production that the audience really appreciated.

Sign of the Times runs at the Richmond Theatre until Sat 30th April
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