Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The York Realist - Riverside Studios

The York Realist
Writer: Peter Gill
Directer: Adam Spreadbury-Maher
Reviewer: Honour Bayes

There is very little to qualm about in Peter Gill’s The York Realist, a charming Northern exploration of two boys in love and the constraints that their opposite class and backgrounds (though not societal prejudice it would seem) impose on their fragile relationship. Sweetly produced by Good Night Out, this is a gently beguiling, if a little sentimental, show which engenders an evening’s entertainment that absolutely lives up to the company’s name.

George is a strapping farm labourer who lives with his aging mother in a remote village. Simple family pleasures are the order of the day, until an attraction to the cosmopolitan John takes those pleasures in a very non-family oriented direction. The result is a touching relationship drama, which explores the restrictions that being a ‘realist’ puts on you – love can’t conquer all it would seem.

Strangely this doesn’t seem very realistic though, with Gill’s tender language and Stephen Hagan and Matthew Burton’s touchingly impassioned performances and strong declarations of love putting paid to the idea that these men would let anything stand in the way of them. It leaves one thinking that maybe it’s more tragically romantic if they cannot be together and that’s why Gill has left them single; Romeo and Juliet have a lot to answer for.

What is realistic however is the perceptive warmth of Gill’s writing within everything else in this play, from the subtle shifts and changes in relationships to the inherent Northern sense of humour. This delightful script has been deftly handled by director Adam Spreadbury-Maher, in a vibrant production that is gigglingly funny at one moment and softly heartbreaking at the next.

Spreadbury-Maher has teased out perceptive and rich performances from his cast, and Hagan and Burton’s chemistry is tangible; they seem truly to complete one another. In a strong ensemble Stephanie Fayerman as the fragile Mother and Sarah Waddell’s busy bodying Doreen are of particular note.

This play is not treading any new ground with strong echoes of Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing within Gill’s narrative and language. Furthermore George Dennis’ beautiful and filmic soundtrack brings Brokeback Mountain forcefully to mind. But The York Realist’s references to these past stories do not take away from the quality of the evening or the emotional integrity of the cast. Definitely a good night out.

Photos: Felix Kunze
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