Review – In Celebration with Orlando Bloom

Wednesday 11 July 2007

By ‘eck, what tut Whingers will pay for a night out at tut theatre.

£40 each in this case. Do they think money grows on trees or summat?

It were pride what did for ’em and them getting above them’s station, that’s what.

With two crackin’ shows – Elling and Saint Joan – under their belts (that’s as in “ah’ll take mah belt t’thee so help me ah will”) the Whingers were aiming for a ‘at-trick with David Storey‘s In Celebration at the Duke of York’s Theatre.

Now, don’t take us wrong. We like northern people. They dine with us (or come in the evening at any rate) but really quite a lot of water has flowed under Hebden Bridge since Storey penned this in 1969. And all of it seems to have passed directrix Anna Mackmin by. And ‘err a Yorkshire lass, too.

Let’s face it if you’re going to revive a gritty northern realist play featuring lines such as…

  • “Coal dust. It’s a wonder I’m still alive.”
  • “Eeee”
  • “‘Ouses, ‘ouses ‘ouses”
  • “She’s a good woman”
  • “‘eart o’ gold”
  • “Nice bit ‘o coat” (actually – we liked that one) and
  • “Spent ‘alf me life making sure none of you went without”

… then you would really have to take into account the contribution to popular culture made in the meantime by Monty Python’s “Four Yorkshiremen“, Victoria Wood, Alan Bennett and Coronation Street, to name but seven.

Or preferably not revive it at all. Let nature take its course and have done with it.

It were painful – I say it were painful! (Andrew – drop the Yorkshire thing now, it’s not working – Phil).

The Whingers looked on aghast as northern stereotypes were paraded across the stage one by one – the father who has spent his life down t’pit (Phil – Sorry. Just slipped out – Andrew), the mother who has given her whole life to bringing up her children, the gossipy neighbour, the three (count ’em!) sons whose education has enabled them to escape their gritty, northern, working class roots. It may have been compelling in 1969 but now it’s just embarrassing.

There’s nothing wrong with the performances, Tim Healy and especially Dearbhla Molloy as the parents Mr and Mrs Shaw stand out and even Orlando Bloom in his West End debut makes a reasonable fist of things, although as ‘silent Steven’ he has lengthy periods on stage with little to say and sometimes looks awkward as though he doesn’t know quite what to do. The moustache doesn’t help.

Nevertheless, his appearance was greeted by a big stage-hissed “yesss!” from an excited female member of the audience as he made his entrance. But even drabbed down in cardigan and despite the moustache on his pale face, he simply made the Whingers wonder (without intending offence to the rest of the cast) exactly what happened in the Shaw family’s gene pool to produce him.

If that turns out to be part of the plot we will never know as the Whingers made a hasty exit at the interval, delighting in being able to tell the doorman who asked us to ensure that we had our tickets with us that we wouldn’t need them.

The estimated running time of this production was just short of three hours but by the interval – despite a couple of revelations about which the Whingers couldn’t have cared less- enough was deemed to be enough.

This despite the fact that the trio of women who arrived late behind the Whingers kept their mobiles on presumably to take photographs at the end. The Whingers didn’t stick around even to find out how Orlando’s stage door goons (or were they Lynda Baron‘s?) dealt with the onslaught.

In Celebration is Rafta, Rafta without the laughs. Even the two level northern home resting on a bed of coal reminded them of that evening. But unlike Rafta – which was adapted to an Asian family to give it some contemporary relevance – In Celebration exists in a time capsule that makes it very difficult to see as anything other than a period piece (c.f. The Entertainer).

The average episode of five-times-a-week Coronation Street has more wit and verisimilitude than this piece.

In a desperate bid for entertainment, the Whingers were by this point praying that David Storey was actually in the house, hoping for a re-run of the Michael Billington incident in which Storey walloped him over a hostile review. Anything for some entertainment.



Suddenly it’s all go in the north:


8 Responses to “Review – In Celebration with Orlando Bloom”

  1. Rednose Says:

    Hi There

    Firstly I really do enjoy the wya you write. It’s very entertaining…
    But I get the feeling that you in you’re last few posts, you always seem to be pushed for time, rather than wanting to sit down and enjoy the show.
    I’m not having ago, but I really would like to know your thoughts on a post that I wrote, partially now I come think of it inspired by yourselves.

    Of course if you don’t have the time, I fully understand.

    Have a Great Day

  2. Well, Rednose, we are VERY busy people. I am actually a member of the MI6 (and Phil has to watch his stories on the television) and as I’m a double agent, it’s like having two jobs really

    Yes, of course we want to spend longer in the theatre than is necessary. Do you complain if the dentist finishes drilling in record time? No.

    There is drinking to be done, cats to be fed and poison pen letters to the council to be written.

    I would explain more but I need to log into Facebook to tell my friends what I’m doing (logging into Facebook).

  3. Rednose Says:

    I feel your wit does make up for something.

  4. I really liked this play when it was done at Chichester a few years ago, and consequently spent the whole evening in the Duke of York’s questioning my sanity.

    And I have come to the conclusion that there’s too much acting being done in this version… at least in the first half. Things do happen after the interval, chaps, but mostly they take the form of shouting and crying and a general feeling that it’s best to pretend they didn’t happen after all. But that long first half is all stilted-family-reunion, and Mackmin and the cast have made the mistake of trying to fill the space with Personality, Emotions and stuff. Tim Healy, God love him, gives it all he’s got and that’s a fair bit, but I’m not sure this is the play for it. After all, legend has it that during rehearsals for the Royal Court première in 1969, director Lindsay Anderson at one point berated an actor, “Don’t just do something – stand there!”

    But sticking Acting in there just makes people wonder what it’s doing in the West End, whereas leaving it nicely sparse would, er, make it clear that it definitely shouldn’t be in the West End. Hmm.

  5. Ian. You’re so right about the too-much-acting thing and we love the Lindsay Anderson anecdote.

    Oh, and we beg you to start a blog even though the world is probably tiring already of waspish, curmudgeonly London theatre blogs.

    But yours could boast the differentiator of being informed and (we presume) more sober than this one.

  6. Oh, bless, but I just don’t get the opportunity to quaff now I have to stay awake and sober to write up!

    I’m quite liking just being a sniper around other people’s blogs. It means I may spend as much time fliting around them as I do wring a “proper” review, but I feel more liberated. I suspect that I’d start to feel a blog as an obligation and would start getting forced or tailing off or just cutting and pasting the quote-proper-unquote stuff. But I do think every so often about trying to incorporate a blog related to the Theatre Record web site.

    And do introduce yourselves next time you see somebody in the stalls who makes Mark Shenton look sylphlike…

  7. Sean Says:

    Mark Shenton is sylphlike in spirit (just like me).

    But back to ‘In Celebration’, does anyone actually know what the argument was about? I’m mystified by the shouting etc.

    By the way both Orlando and Tim H mucked up lines on Tuesday night.

    My review (and of Joseph!!) is on:

  8. Jeannique Says:

    You didn’t miss much leaving at the interval. We stayed, hoping that there would be some explanation as to all the angst and yelling…and yet there was none. Almost everyone we passed on the way out was saying, “What just happened?”

    And the mob outside the stage door after was horrendous. We couldn’t even begin to approach any of the other actors.

    Quite an odd evening. I liked the set, too, though.

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