Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Rattle of a Simple Man - Darlington Civic Theatre

Rattle of a Simple Man by Charles Dyer
Director: Ian Dickens
Production Directors: Caroline Burnett, Ian Marston & David North
Reviewer: Ian Cain

Timid football fan Percy is down from Manchester with the lads and after the match is picked up by lovely young prostitute Cyrenne. The lads bet he won’t spend the night with her but, uncharacteristically, he accepts the bet and goes to her basement flat. He is shy, gullible and believes all her lies about her exclusive education, her rich family, her sophisticated acquaintances and her exciting life. He prefers to talk rather than ‘do anything’ and gradually they open up to one another.

Hannah Waterman follows in the footsteps of fellow ex-‘EastEnders’ Letitia Dean and Michelle Collins to take on the role of Cyrenne. Her portrayal of the seemingly self-assured ‘working girl’ is powerful and compelling as she consummately captures the contradictory qualities of Cyrenne’s character.

Huw Higginson injects an endearing vulnerability into his performance as Percy that makes the character both likeable and credible. A lesser actor could easily have taken the role into the realms of caricature but Higginson, skilfully, retains believability throughout.

There is a chemistry between the two actors that you can almost reach out and grab hold of and it is a joy to behold.

Charles Dyer’s script crackles along and his writing is honest, sympathetic and heart-felt. The audience empathise with his characters as we discover that Percy leads a dull life with a hum-drum job, that he is lonely and longs for love, whilst Cyrenne is a fantasist from an ordinary background who was abused by her stepfather and is now struggling to find pride and independence.

Ian Dickens’ direction allows the characters to reveal their true personalities to each other and the audience gradually, yet the pace never drags. The scene between Cyrenne and her brother, Ricard, (played by Jarone Macklin-Page) is particularly poignant.

The fourth ‘star’ of this production has to be David North’s stunning set. He has authentically recreated a 1960s bed-sit and the attention to detail is superb.

Although ‘Rattle of a Simple Man’ was written in 1962 (the original production starred Sheila Hancock and Edward Woodward and was performed at the Garrick Theatre, London) it doesn’t seem that dated. Okay, so we are not as easily shocked or offended as we were back then, therefore the word ‘bottom’ no longer causes grown men to blush and shift uneasily in their seats. However you can bet your life that men such as Percy still exist in the twenty-first century, albeit they may be fewer in number.

There are some moments of high comedy, too, which triggered a number of bawdy laughs from a lady in the front row of the stalls who had either been fairly well lubricated with alcohol prior to the performance or was demonstrating a reaction to the high level of E-numbers contained in the bag of M&M’s that she was devouring her way through.

‘Rattle of a Simple Man’ is a play that is beautifully written, lovingly revived and tenderly portrayed. The opportunity to bask in two and a quarter hours of sentimental nostalgia is a sheer delight and something that is all too rare in the theatre nowadays.

It seems fitting to conclude with a quote from Harold Hobson, “those who do not see ‘Rattle of a Simple Man’ will always be somewhat impoverished for having missed it.”

‘Rattle of a Simple Man’ runs at Darlington Civic Theatre until Saturday 13th June 2009, before transferring to The New End Theatre, London from Monday 22nd June until Saturday 4th July 2009.
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