Jump, Mr. Malinoff, Jump
Paul Johnson | 09 Sep 2011 16:41pm
It is always daunting tacking a well known writer’s work, but to take on one known for writing flagship BBC dramas and high octane action then the audience expectations of the company are going to be high. Then, as if the company hasn’t set the bar high enough, to perform in as intimate and low key a venue as the Barton Green Theatre really is pushing the boundaries. Thankfully, director Steven Peters’ decisions paid off. The company not only matched our high expectations, but they exceeded them. Set in Southend during the 1990s, the audience are greeted by a perfect replica of a cafe interior down to the faded and dirty paintwork on the walls, the bright checkered table tops and the 1990s prices on their stock. The attention to detail was superb. It felt lived in. Following George’s quest to grow up and be like his brother and the older sibling Nick’s mission to make something of himself and see the world, we leap straight into their lives. Newcomer to the Green Theatre Company, Danny Lunn brings a tenderness and an awkward warmth to the part of George. While his delivery could at times use a tad more variation, we find ourselves moved by each new sadness that befalls him. We too feel Nick’s irritation at his naivety but also share in the affection shown towards him for his innocence. Nick (played with some admirable and mostly perfect vocal work by Michael Skellern) is the much more worldly wise of the pair. Older and tougher, he is a straight talking no nonsense sort of guy. Forceful and very much in your face, Skellern finds the fine balance between being downright nasty and being too soft. He’s harsh, but infinitely likable. He starts off as a closed book but as the play goes on, behind his perfect sense of comedy timing we see a boy struggling, out of his depth. You buy them as brothers, despite the disparity of their looks and personality types. They do really care for each other. The irony of their sibling relationship and what as an audience convinces us of it wholly is that we see it more when they are not on stage together than when they are. This is especially apparent in the scenes Skellern shares with Troy Clark’s perfectly delivered Essex wide boy Dougie Price. Nick then is not the top dog anymore. We see a young naive boy trying to aspire to things beyond him. In this, we see Nick being George. It is not just this irony that makes these scenes infinitely watchable. Clark’s performance shows us a world where the Malinoff family can escape to, at least in part. It may not be the most desirable world to be in, but it is one where you eventually get to call your own shots rather than just keep reliving the same moments because it is what you do. The speech from Dougie about what the world currently does every day, the pattern we fall into and how when you see your chance to break the cycle and escape you should grab it is not only a perfect example of Whithouse’s writing at its very best, but by the time it had reached its conclusion, you could hear a proverbial pin drop. It becomes apparent that Nick is not the only one looking for a way out of their lot. Emma Sullivan’s Emily is also of a similar bent, but we get the impression hers is a more fleeting desire for escape, the fickleness of youth maybe. While Sullivan’s performance at times was a little larger than life, she was a welcome break to the sheer volume of testosterone on stage. Playing women definitely suits her however as she managed to bring the necessary sense of self absorption of a teenage girl, but also drop in the hints of subtext of a genuine world she wishes to flee. Her talk of the souvenirs her Dad brings back from hotel rooms on his brief visits home, while played for laughs becomes part of the subtext and when events reach a climax in act two it becomes quite moving. Special mention must be made of John Mole’s performance as Pasha Malinoff. Played with a wonderful frankness and a simple honest, Mole’s Pasha was perfect in every way. Alongside the unseen Mother (played by the multi-tasking Stage Manager Madeleine Mason) he represented the old world, the world the boys are trying to escape from. The poignancy of the reveal that Pasha knows only too well the need and desire for escape was not only beautiful, but also heart breaking in equal measure. While the sound effects were at times a little loud and distracting – a directorial choice perhaps, an aural metaphor – and the scene changes overly long, the performance flowed nicely. Characterisation was strong and storytelling was the order of the day. There were no weak links. From a bold choice of play, this was the end result and it is one the company and indeed Steven Peters should be proud of. It is commonplace for an amateur company to perform a light frothy musical or a delightfully witty farce. Less commonplace are companies or directors willing to take a risk and show real raw emotion on a stage, to expose themselves in front of an audience predominantly made up of family and friends. It is not only refreshing to see a company paint so vivid a picture but to do so to this standard was a treat. Green Theatre Company are performing Fuddy Mears by David Lindsay-Abaire at the Barton Green Theatre from the 21st to the 24th of September 2011 and if Jump Mr. Malinoff, Jump is indicative, it will be well worth a visit.
- : admin
- : 09/07/2011