Reviewed by Matt Forrest
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s 80 years since Graham Greene’s novel Bright Rock first saw the light of day. It spawned two film adaptations, one in 1947 launching the career of Richard Attenborough and the other coming in 2010 featuring Helen Mirren. It has become something of a cult classic and a much-loved staple of British literature and film.
Director Esther Richardson and the Pilot Theatre company have brought a fresh and unique version to the stage, that despite a few plot niggles, is hugely entertaining and well worth a watch. The plot focuses on the murder of Charles ‘Fred’ Hale, who arrives in Brighton on a special assignment from a newspaper. It’s in the resort that ‘Fred’ bumps into local gangster Pinkie, a teenage sociopath with a grudge to settle. As Fred tries to survive the day in Brighton, he encounters the kind-hearted Ida Arnold, who takes a shine to Fred, however Pinkie catches up with his prey and soon Fred is no more.
However what Pinkie doesn’t reckon on is not just the determination of Ida to find out the truth, but also the involvement of Rose, a sweet natured, innocent waitress who holds the key to Fred’s demise. An encounter between Pinkie and Rose leads to a somewhat unconventional love and eventual marriage but will this be enough to save Pinkie from the long arm long arm of the law, but himself as well.
There is a great deal to admire in this production. Jacob James Beswick, is outstanding as Pinkie; he has a swagger full of menace, as he prowls around the stage like a Jackal and his performance really anchors the production. In addition, he is supported by a fine cast with Sarah Middleton as Rose, and Gloria Onitiri as Ida, with the latter demonstrating a beautiful singing voice. In addition, there is a hard working ensemble cast who play various roles and work their socks off.
The play explores numerous themes including right and wrong, as several characters’ moral compasses go off in various directions. What is interesting is the relationship between Rose and Pinkie, and how they try to remain truthful to their Roman Catholic upbringings. However, one plot strand that I feel is underdeveloped is the relationship between Ida and Fred, this isn’t explored nearly enough for you to invest and believe in Ida’s crusade to seek justice for a man she hardly knew.
What stood out for me was the look and feel of the show. The set design by Sara Perks looks fantastic, this in conjunction with a truly atmospheric musical arrangement from Hannah Peel, adds a sense of danger to proceedings. In addition, the production contains some intricate fascinating choreography from movement director Jenifer Jackson, which again leaves a feeling of menace, as various cast members linger around the pier and emerge from the shadows, it really does create an intimidating foreboding atmosphere.
This is a bold, slick production that certainly looks fantastic with a central performance that will linger in the memory for some time to come.
Brighton Rock part of the Week 53 festival is on at the Lowry till 26th May tickets available here.