Writer: Mervyn Peake
Adaptor: John Constable
Director: Amy Wyllie
Reviewer: Flip Miller
The Public Reviews Rating:
Rehearsed in just two weeks you would expect some rough around the edges performances and dubious stage direction. However the cast, under the direction of Amy Wyllie, bring this rather surreal second book in Mervyn Peake’s trilogy to life.
The story is set in the realm of Gormenghast where everyone, from the highest echelon of society to the lowliest of proles are governed by tradition and ritual. The mantra “Nothing Changed” is repeated throughout.
However the newest and youngest Earl of Groan (Sam Rees,) sets to break out from the mould. At the same time down trodden kitchen boy Steerpike, ably played by Edward Spence rises from his lowly position to challenge the status quo to some devastating effect.
In the kitchen, Steerpike is employed by Swelter (Tom Houlton), the Groan’s cook. Tom had more than a passing resemblance to a young Matt Lucas and an almost unhealthy obsession with his cleaver with superb coming timing. Hatty Ashton and Holly Delefortrie as Aunts Cora and Clarice are wonderful their timing was superb, it is evident that a lot of work has been put into their performance as their dialogue bounces off each other with ease to create a brilliant comic interlude.
Sam Rees as naïve Titus portrays the role with skill and precision, of particular note the final scene with his sister Fuschia (Alexandra Ewing,) playing this vital and vivacious character with such skill. However, her final scene with Sam was really touching.
Wyllie’s direction is not afraid to use silence for dramatic effect and Spence does this particularly well during Steerpike’s mental downfall. He had the audience in the palm of his hand and he knew it. Repetition also features heavily to chilling effect, which carries on with you long after you have left the theatre
In the programme notes director Wyllie says “The cast of 22 young people have been a delight to work with, helping each other learn lines, practice scenes and all because they feel so passionate about the story”. This passion is borne out on stage and all the cast are to be congratulated on their performances.