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Posted: 28/03/2018

#EverymanReviews - Brighton Rock

By: Jade Beard

Brighton; a place of escapism, sunshine, and innocent seaside frolics. But, in Pilot Theatres’ take on Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, 1930s Brighton transforms into a town submerged by corruption, sin, and hapless youth.

But also infused within this interpretation of Brighton Rock is a turbulent sense of identity, and an interrogation into what it means to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Pinkie; a roman catholic and 17 year old boy, is warped by crime, sin, and murder, while Ida, an atheist and middle-aged ‘Polony’, who believes only in living life to the fullest, embodies a goodness and light that never wanes, despite the corruption that surrounds her. Gloria’s Ontiri is brilliant in her portrayal as the vivacious and care-free Ida, and, like her character, never wanes in her uplifting spirit. Combined with her brilliant comic-timing, Ontiri fills the stage with a lightness that shines through the illicit wrongdoings of Pinkie’s mob. And, while most characters are dressed in muted, dull tones, Ida’s scarlet coat personifies and magnifies her passion for not only life, but doing the right thing.

Although a far cry from the star-crossed lovers of Verona (with Pinkie often threatening to shower his bride-to-be with viscera), Sarah Middleton and Jacob James Beswick’s portrayal of the hopeless love between Pinkie and Rose creates a humorous, albeit truthful, depiction of the awkward realities of youthful intimacy. Rose’s unashamed craving for love, regardless of the consequences, makes her a lovable if not troubling character, whose unwavering loyalty to someone who openly despises her encompasses Pilot’s Theatre’s plight to acknowledge our desire for belonging.

Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre, a nineteenth-century playhouse steeped in a rich history, serves as a direct contrast to the dark and dingy portrayal of 1930s Brighton presented on stage. Using a simple but effective design, Pilot Theatre’s dynamic use of space and lighting enables an interrogation of Brighton’s hidden murky depths, as the bright, artificial lights of the pier reveal the pretence of free-loving Brighton, as two of the story’s deaths centre around the infamous pier, which transforms into a a hub of crime and murder.

The slick and sharp movements of the show’s cast are intricately calculated, reflecting not only the actions of small-time mob leader Pinkie, but Ida’s continual search for justice; this energy and movement, combined with the continual presence of the ‘Dark Angels’, and intensifying music score, build a sense of foreboding and unease, which never ceases until the last crackle of the gramophone.

Gripping, dark, and explicit in its gritty portrayal of youth and desire, Brighton Rock is a riveting interpretation of a cult classic, which grapples with the complexities of morality in an innovative and unique way.

Book to see the show here

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