Touring – reviewed at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
CLUNTERING FLAPPYSKETS ! DON’T SMITTLE AND SKRYKE , IT’S BARRIE AGAIN… By ‘eck, luv! They Northern Broadsides, they weren’t hid behind t’mangle when they were handin’ out stair-rods! Who’d be a mauping mardy-grouse, when that Barrie Rutter sets his cast a gabbling and jabbernecking fit t’jeggle a ticket price out o’yer. Even if you are just a harming nanny-goat from t’South, fandangering shitehawks that you are, making a face like a ram’s clag, skewerin’ up yer eyes to t’caption screens when our Marlene speaks her mind…
Or, to put it another way, in the final days of the great Rutter’s leadership of Northern Broadsides, he is directing and starring in Blake Morrison’s adaptation of Alain-René’s 18th-century satirical comedy Turcaret, and giving at least half the characters a Yorkshire argot so extreme that my husband – Yorkshire born and bred – rather suspected that a lot of it came straight out of the Old Amos column in The Dalesman. Or in some cases, possibly, the heads of Messrs. Blake and Rutter. Just sayin’. If it wasn’t Northern Broadsides you’d accuse them of sending up t’North. Practically a hate-crime. But done with love, fair enough.
At Bury St Edmunds, where we caught it early on the tour, it happened to be a caption-screen night. Maybe it always is. It wouldn’t be a half bad idea, especially when Jacqueline Naylor’s Marlene-the-housekeeper starts up in scene 1 and you wonder what language it’s in. There is more RP language, if not accent, from the heroine Rose – a susceptible widow (Sarah Jane Potts) — and from Rutter himself as the venal and lecherous bank manager Fuller, who lavishes rich gifts on her unaware that she passes the money on to the more presentable, r Teddy-boy-smooth quiffed Arthur, a gambler, and his gopher Jack. I rather took to Jos Vantyler as the cad.
An oddly pleasing double-vision will afflict any theatre scholar, though, because beneath the dialect and the 1920’s setting this is every inch a cynical 18c French comedy: stylized asides, obvious overhearings, capering entrances (people always first appear just as their name is mentioned). The characters are staunchly immune to development or reform, figures straight from commedia del’Arte and Punch &Judy. A simpering but deceitful lady, a rich adulterous banker, greedy handsome suitor, crafty servants, comedy farmer, deus-ex-machina bailiff, etc.
The cast play it that way, which sometimes feels jerky and tends to be psychologically un-engaging (that’s Moliereish comedy for you). But once you get used to that, the second half in particular is farcically entertaining. Rutter booms and blusters, Jim English as the farmer (“nazzled from lookin’ after t’tups since back-end”) finds love with an admirably tarty Sarah Parks as the mysterious Teresa, and Jack (Jordan Metcalfe) gets to run off with most of the money and his prostitute girlfriend (Kat Rose-Martin, even tartier). As he informs us in a final caper, , “A lad and a lass, we may not have class, But we’ll live as we want ter – now we’ve got brass!”
It’s an oddity, but by the end quite fun. And one always enjoys the sight of Barrie Rutter doing a curtain-class Charleston while still in handcuffs.
Touring. Rose Kingston next, then Newcastle under Lyme, Scarborough, York…