Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol – until 8 October 2022
After six years Mike Tweddle took his leave of The Tobacco Factory last week. His time there has been hampered by Covid but there have been some real highlights during his tenure, the community choir lighting up Beautiful Thing and his production of A View From The Bridge, one of the great Bristol shows of the past decade among them.
His last week saw the opening of Daniel J Carver’s Revealed, a piece the theatre marketing team has urgently heralded as the most important work the space has ever presented. Perhaps the pitch pushes this conceit a little far, but what is presented is a cracking three-hander that explores what it means to be a black man in contemporary Britain. As riots tear up the streets, three generations of one family take refuge in their Jamaican restaurant LoveIt where bonds are made, secrets revealed and history is brought blazingly to the surface. Over the course of one-night Grandfather Sidney, his son Malcolm and Grandson Luther all try to make sense of a culture that is rapidly changing.
Carver’s play is classical in structure, kitchen sink realist in execution, and as political as it is personal. Across two hours, his characters tackle a range of big subjects, from racism to black masculinity, homosexuality to the place of fathers in family dynamics. His piece gradually drops in the revelations but also leaves room for those things not said. There are times when the theatre becomes a pressure cooker, ready to explode at any minute. The violence when it kicks in feels both inevitable-a release from emotions that can’t be released in other forms-and heart-breaking mistakes repeating each other generation after generation.
Carver’s writing pitches into melodrama at points, but who, from Shakespeare to O’Neill, can’t have that accusation levelled at them, but Jay Zorenti-Nakhad keeps the drama ticking over with an exquisitely paced production. There are times when is naturalism drifts into theatricality, the flares from the streets, the haunting sirens, the actors slowly drifting into the space and staring at each other, looking into their souls as if for the first time. He draws out performances that brim with vigour and pain.
Everal A Walsh as restaurant owner and Grandfather Sidney uses joviality to mask the sense of regret of not always being there for his family, writer Carver brings out the toxic masculinity that can erupt when someone feels lost and trapped and in an impressive professional debut Dylan Brady gives hope as the next generation who are discovering a different world for themselves. On Amanda Mascharenhas’s convincing restaurant set, the three characters pace, dissect, explode and perhaps find some hope. It’s been a tough few years for the Tobacco Factory but at a time of change with Heidi Vaughan-Thomas about to take over, Revealed shows us why it is such an important space.
Theatre Royal Bath – until
Is there a more perfectly constructed play than Michael Frayn’s Noises Off? Now celebrating 40 years with the writer in attendance on press night at the Theatre Royal Bath, Lindsay Posner’s production, first seen at the Old Vic in 2012 is richly cast in this revival and still purrs along in its exquisitely handled stage business and sense of each mechanism landing perfectly in place. What this production is particularly blessed with is Joseph Milson.
Milson’s work has always been a recommendation of high quality, finding class in mediocrity (Love Never Dies) or danger in unpredictability (The Rover) and he is in his element here as Garry Lejaune, bringing a desperate suaveness as the matinee idol past his prime finding terrific physical comedy, as he hops upstairs, shoelaces tied together by his vengeful ex and eventually takes a tumble down the stairs that earns a spontaneous round of applause. It’s the kind of performance that if there is any justice would catapult him to the premium actor of his generation.
Not that his is the only impressive performance, what with the Rolls Royce casting of solid pros Felicity Kendall, Matthew Kelly, Jonathan Coy, Tracey-Ann Oberon, and Alexander Hanson. Each brings years of craft to Frayn’s theatrical archetypes, from Kendall’s ‘darling’ Dotty to Hanson’s director, bringing Trevor Nunn-like flair and wardrobe to the stage. Frayn’s piece understands the inner workings of theatre people, and how drama messily intersects with life. Its three acts take us from tech to backstage to the final performance blowing up. You don’t know how it can sustain its energy, but it does and then raises it over and over again. A perfect evening of entertainment.
Revealed TF Theatres https://tobaccofactorytheatres.com/shows/revealed/ ****
Noises Off Theatre Royal Bath https://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/event/noises-off/ *****