Olly’s Prison (1993) hardly betrays its origin as a screenplay, with
scenes written in great arcs and a poetry that defies TV naturalism. Nuggets of
language zing out into the auditorium leaving one in no doubt that this is the work of
a master writer.
Gareth Corke’s production begins a little scrappily. Ewan Bailey handles the
first 30 minute monologue well but you can’t help feeling more work went into the
more obviously complex second half, where the dramatic intensity is racheted up
to unbearable levels. It’s shockingly violent and the terrific ensemble handle the
difficulties extremely impressively.
A whole new energy comes after the interval with Charlotte Fields’ superb
portrayal of the bereaved mother, seething with hatred, and Elicia Daly’s Vera,
whose inexplicable devotion to the child-killer is touchingly convincing. They are
standout performances in a splendid production which uplifts and thrills despite the
grim subject matter.
Director Conrad Blakemore fields a similarly strong team for The Pope’s
Wedding. The cast is uniformly excellent, with exceptional contributions from
the main couple, Rebecca Tanwen and Tim O‘Hara, and a beautifully nuanced
performance as Bill by Matt Stokoe. John Atterbury’s old man is another striking
The over-busy scene-changes could do with simplifying – the Cock’s recent
Hotel Sorrento showed how multiple sets can co-exist even in a space as
small as this – but the cricket match is wittily and imaginatively staged.
Bond’s text, which simmers on and on with repressed aggression, is as
demanding as anything he wrote. The pack of listless young men, food fit for
powder in slightly earlier generations when the insatiable world war machinery would
have chewed them up, are only a stone’s throw away from the mob who kill a baby in Saved.
Reproductions of Constable’s Haywain look down from the walls onto
a rural scene far less idyllic. This is territory not far from Rudkin’s Afore Night
Comes or, a step further, Straw Dogs. The bating of the old man is
increasingly unsettling, although the violence when it finally arrives is unseen.
The Cock Tavern’s Bond season is shaping up extremely well and the cumulative
effect of the series must surely only add to its strengths. Anyone serious about
English Theatre of the last half century should think twice about missing these and
the remaining productions.
The Bond Season at the Cock Taven will also include productions of The Under Room, The Fool, Red Black and Ignorant and the premiere of a new play.
The season runs until 13 Novemeber 2010. Further information can be found at CockTavernTheatre.com