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The Times
The Bedsit
The Tabard
12 November 1996
 

Wait For The End

Whatever else this review of Paul Sellar’s play contains, Jeremy Kingston writes, I long to mention the last two minutes, and of course this is the unforgivable offence. “Don’t give away the end.” critics are told. So nothing about the climax, and no artfully ambiguous phrasing.

Heigh Ho. Because what goes on beforehand in this 70 minute thriller is really a long lull before the lighting storm. It’s okay, I didn’t say lighting, although David Pleydell’s work in this department contributes mightily to the nervous mood of the opening and the, ah, nature of the end.

In the dark, a spotlight reveals Polly Bowles in a far corner singing a sad, sour balled about Willie McBride who died in 1915 fighting the Brits. She is joined by Philip Hoffman, and then the darkness swallows them and the spot picks out the banal picture of a hunting scene. Just that, for about a minute until the lights slowly come on full and James Ellis (Brady) is seen sitting in a bare room, looking somewhat like a Peter Ustinov who has stopped seeing the funny side of life.

No wonder, because the hard young man he has allowed to share his room and the hard young mans even harder colleague are soon with him and behaving with the rudeness of unwelcome guests. They may have beheaded his Alsatian in another room, and more than likely carry instructions to do something nasty to Brady’s head, too.

The fascination of the hunting print and what Brady calls the “horrendous hullaballoo” of the hunt is that the fox is lonely, frightened and running. In next to no time we have worked out that Brady once belonged to a body of Irish gunmen but fled, sickened by the bloodshed. The ultimatum eventually delivered is: rejoin or die.

Ellis and the younger couple (Cliff Hylands and Andrew Maclean) give fierce and clever performances, although the writing requires them to do the equivalent of treading water before the climax I mustn’t mention. The director is Michael Friend, head of drama at Hurtwood House, who presented the play.

Jeremy Kingston