Posts Tagged ‘Adrian Lukis’

The Handyman, Richmond Theatre, October 2012

15 October, 2012

In the mid-late 1990s at my son’s high school in America, the janitor was accused of having been a Ukrainian concentration camp guard in World War II. Most of the students wanted to excuse him, because like the title character in this play, written about the same time, he was a nice guy who wouldn’t harm anyone … and it was all so long ago.

Forgive and forget they say, but forgiveness is the prerogative of victims, and as for forgetting, well the birds finally come home to roost in this clever drama by Ronald Harwood. A much-loved handyman has been with an English family since shortly after the War, and is now suddenly faced with two police officers accusing him of being involved in the genocide of 817 Jews in three villages in the western Ukraine. Timothy West gives a realistic and sympathetic performance of this gentle fellow called Wronka, with Adrian Lukis and Caroline Langrishe portraying Julian and Cressida Field, the couple he works for. They react in different ways. Julian provides some comic relief, and understands guilt, seeing it in Wronka’s calm reactions to his late wife’s outrages, but Cressida adores the lovely man who joined the family before she was born. She cannot cope with the idea he might be guilty, and towards the end Harwood cleverly allows her to show the face of holocaust denial.

The Fields hire a highly intellectual solicitor, beautifully played by Carolyn Backhouse, who expresses some elementary truths about anti-Semitism and responds to the claim that Wronka is not evil by dismissing the concept as it “absolves us of responsibility”. Indeed nice people can participate in some very nasty acts, but even if he is guilty as the police seem to think, how could one possibly prove it more than fifty years later, when it’s one person’s word against another and memories can be unreliable?

The solicitor arrives

The police, well portrayed by James Simmons and Anthony Houghton, are not quite without support, and as the play progresses we hear video testimony by Vanessa Redgrave and Steven Berkoff representing faces from the past. These vignettes suddenly draw us back to the early 1940s, to what actually happened when Jews from three villages were taken into the woods and shot.

She can’t believe it

Can Cressida Field ever truly believe Wronka was involved? I don’t know what Harwood’s original ending was, but he changed it, and in this fine production by Joe Harmston it works brilliantly. The birds do it.

Performances at Richmond continue until October 20 — for details click here — after which it continues on tour to: Malvern Festival Theatre, 22 – 27 Oct; Oxford Playhouse, 29 Oct – 3 Nov.

The Winslow Boy, Rose Theatre, Kingston-on-Thames, May 2009

17 May, 2009

winslow-boy

This new production, which is about to go on tour, gave us a terrific performance of Terence Rattigan’s enthralling play about a teenage boy wrongly accused of stealing a five shilling postal order at Naval College. The case, based on a true story, goes all the way to Parliament. This fine production directed by Stephen Unwin, with costumes by Mark Bouman, and sets by Simon Higlett showing the drawing room in the Winslow’s house, worked very well. The acting was entirely natural and this theatrical play came over with complete conviction. What a very pleasant change from the dreadfully untheatrical play Madame de Sade, which I saw earlier the same week.

The cast all did an excellent job, particularly Claire Cox as the Winslow boy’s big sister Catherine, showing great intelligence and emotional restraint. Timothy West gave a commanding performance as his father, with Diane Fletcher as a sympathetic mother who laments the financial and emotional strain created by her husband’s consuming passion for justice. Adrian Lukis added a terrifyingly professional quality as Sir Robert Morton the famous barrister who is surprisingly willing to take on this seemingly trivial case, and prove the boy’s innocence. As the boy Ronnie, Hugh Wyld acquitted himself well, as did Thomas Howes as his elder, happy-go-lucky brother. Sarah Flind was good as the maid, and John Sackville and Roger May were convincing as the young men who would woo Catherine — the first rejecting her when she refuses to drop her brother’s case, and the second willing to wed even though she can feel no love for him.

This is a well-crafted play that starts slowly, building up to the entrance of the famous barrister Sir Robert who undertakes a ferociously provocative interrogation of young Ronnie. After it’s over his remark, “The boy is plainly innocent. I accept the brief”, is a real coup de theatre, followed immediately by the fall of the curtain on the first half. The audience responded well to the performance, and choice lines such as, “the House of Commons is a peculiarly exhausting place, with too little ventilation and far too much hot air” caused well deserved laughter, particularly in view of recent events in parliament. Altogether a wonderful evening’s entertainment.

After playing at the Rose in Kingston the play tours: Cambridge Arts Theatre 1st – 6th June, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford 8th – 13th June, Theatre Royal Bath 15th – 20th June, Oxford Playhouse 22nd – 27th June, Malvern Theatres 29th June – 4th July, Milton Keynes Theatre 6th – 11th July, Churchill Theatre Bromley 13th – 18th July, Brighton Theatre Royal 20th – 25th July.