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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Duke Of York's

By Patrick Marmion

  Tim Healy and Orland Bloom

They say life begins at forty but it's not looking good for David Storey's 1960s drama about an upwardly mobile miners' family in Northern England. It's so painfully repressed it even uses Orlando Bloom in an almost completely silent role. This is not to say there's no place in theatre for suffocating repression, Harold Pinter built a career on it. It's just that this is a drearily undramatic slice of life.

Never escaping the front room of a Yorkshire tenement &lsquothe action' turns around a garrulous miner (Tim Healy) and his taciturn wife (Dearbhla Molloy) who educated their three sons to escape the drudge of working in the pits. As a result, Colin (Gareth Farr) is a big noise in the motor business. But chatterbox Andrew (Paul Hilton) has gone off the rails and left his job as a lawyer, intending to support his family as a penniless artist. Meanwhile, Steven (Orlando Bloom) is having a breakdown - seldom speaking and weeping noisily in his sleep. You never find out why.

The implication is that all three sons have been traumatically alienated from their roots by their education. In particular Andrew felt rejected as a toddler because he was looked after by a family friend shortly after the death of the mother's first born. But it's not the death of the brother that bothers him so much as his mother's sending him to be cared for by a neighbor while she was grieving. Clearly he wouldn't survive in a modern creche.

Storey's writing has its virtues - good solid dialogue that preserves the Yorkshire dialect for posterity. One of the funnier lines is a uxorious back hand compliment which runs &lsquoeh, lass, you know I love you and I married you all the same'. Otherwise, as another character comments &lsquoit doesn't do any good all this endless digging'.

Clearly Storey loved his characters but it's a love that's hard to share in Annda Mackmin's monotonous production. Tim Healy is sweetly garrulous as the jesting Dad. However, Orlando Bloom does little but sulk in a brown cardigan and Paul Hilton is a whinging bore. Meanwhile I only discovered much later that Gareth Farr's character is gay. &lsquoYou can just tell' I was told.

At least Ciaran McIntyre lightens the mood as a lush and lyrical Irish friend,. But no one cracks Dearbhla Molloy's steadfast, cold-blooded mother hen. If only another miner's son, DH Lawrence, could have been let loose on the story he might have stirred some passion.


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