National Operatic &
24 -26th April 2014
Directed by Barry Jarvis
The Entertainer – John Osborne
The most disturbing thing about John Osborne’s The Entertainer isn’t its portrayal of family dysfunction, dispossession, poverty, infidelity, alcoholism, the cost of war or the crushing tide of human hopelessness, it’s the fact that 55 years after its original conception, the play is still depressingly relevant today.
Set in post-World War II London, the play takes place largely in the Rice family home.
It’s around the time of the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956. The working-class Rice family, like virtually every British family of the time, has been left battered and bruised by two world wars. Poverty is widespread, the social landscape is changing too quickly and the only means of escape are found at the other side of the world or at the bottom of a gin bottle.
Despite its semi-political context, The Entertainer is best interpreted as a sharp, social drama-come-satire. Act by act and layer by layer, Osborne gradually unveils the complexity of post-war, post-imperial Britain and the chastening effects of change and modernity on the common man. Its onslaught of grit and realism is dense and, at times, pretty unforgiving.
The Entertainer @ Royal Exchange, Manchester by Gideon Brody
Photos kindly taken by John Covey
Reviewed by: Jose Harrison on Friday 25h April 2014
Venue: Felpham Village Hall
Type of Production: Play
Director: Barry Jarvis
The Entertainer is the story of Archie Rice a faded Music Hall performer at a time when Music Halls were going out of fashion. The set was very cleverly arranged allowing for twelve scenes to take place, without any delay, by the simple method of closing the curtains in front of the living room in Archie’s house and using the ‘apron’ as the music hall theatre stage.
Everything about this funny but intensely moving production had been carefully thought out down to the finest detail. The costumes, furnishings, lighting, choice of music and props were so ‘right’, captivating the feel of the 1950s with its problems so many actors faced with the death of the music hall as they had known it.
The cast consisted of Archie’s father, Billy Rice, who was generally considered to have been a better performer than his son, Archie and his wife Phoebe, his daughter Jean, and son Frank, his brother Bill and the pianist, Charlie, at the entertainment centre. Every one of these performed their parts totally convincingly, were word perfect, moved around the small stage area very naturally and acted, in many cases, rather inebriated without ever going over the top.
Billy (Steve Wallace) opened the show with an incredible portrayal of grandfather, bored and frustrated by the ageing process with incredibly long speeches which were delivered faultlessly. He maintained his irritable character through this very demanding part always moving with the posture of a much older man. He was joined in scene one by his granddaughter Jean (Victoria Waldron) who spent a good deal of the play as an excellent listener. Not the easiest of parts to perform. Next we met Phoebe (Sandy Knight) the over sensitive, overwrought wife who had developed a drink problem brought on by being married to a selfish womanising egomaniac. She was superb in her part in every respect. Finally we come to Philip Amor who portrayed every facet of Archie Rice brilliantly. He danced, sang, argued, sulked and yet tore at our heart strings generally giving the performance of a life time. I can honestly say that I was completely transported into the life of The Entertainer for over two hours of riveting theatre.
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