Get Carter: Carter without Caine

Jack about to fire his gun. Again.

Dark, well produced and well paced, and yet the most striking thing about Northern Stage’s Get Carter is not what is in Torben Betts’s adaptation, but what isn’t.

Would Northern Stage do justice to the legendary Get Carter? I was prepared to stake my reputation on this when I made this my top recommendation of the season. Northern Stage have a long track record of decent and innovative productions, and Torben Betts has a great track record as a writer. And yet, I had a few nagging doubts. When I saw their offerings last year, both Torben Betts and Northern Stage artistic director Lorne Campbell made some odd artistic decisions that stopped them living up to their full potential. And I was still reeling from a very disappointing (and utterly incomprehensible) version ten years ago. Well, I needn’t have worried. Get Carter is an excellent choice to put on stage if you get it right, and they did.

Get Carter is, of course, best known for the film with Michael Caine, who has the amazing ability to play any character in any film as the Michael Caine character and pull it off. He could probably have got away with saying “My name is Jack Carter. Not a lot of people know this, by my niece Doreen is actually my daughter.” Such is his dominance of any film he touches, it’s easy to forget it was already a great story without him. Set in the criminal world on 1960s Newcastle, Jack returns home for his brother’s funeral. Already a veteran of London’s criminal underworld, Jack correctly guesses his brother’s death wasn’t really an accident and people are feigning ignorance. What he doesn’t realise straight away is that he’s getting drawn into a power struggle in a web of criminal empires, each one trying to play Jack off against their rivals. Jack might have been an amoral hand for hire in London, but on learning what really happened to his family, he becomes a vengeful vigilante, dishing out somewhat arbitrary justice, with your fate largely down to how much you’ve pissed him off. Continue reading

What’s worth watching: Brighton Fringe 2016

Fringe City

And we’re off again. Hope you all enjoyed your seven months of post-Edinburgh Fringe hibernation, but Brighton Fringe is creeping up on us again. So, as always, I have looked through the programme, and here are my picks of things that I can recommend to you.

As always, the important thing to be aware of is that this should be considered a cross-section of good things that are on offer, rather than an exhaustive list. These are all either plays I’ve seen before, or plays from artists I’ve seen before, or both. And what I’ve seen before – and who’s been able to get my attention – largely comes down to chance. In particular, there are a number of plays I’m confident will be good based on recommendations of other reviewers who I know and trust – but those plays will be recommended elsewhere. This is just for my personal recommendations.

One other point of note is a reminder that plays I am involved in are not eligible for recommendations. This is the first time this rules applies at the Brighton Fringe. Of course, I can get round this rule by shoehorning in references to the fact that I’m putting on my own play in Brighton. Bit like I’m doing now. Anyway, if you really want to read about that, you can do so here. Continue reading

A masterpiece of Mice and Men

George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men is just as moving now as it was in the Great Depression; and the production from Birmingham Rep and Touring Consortium fully does it justice.

Credit crunch? Austerity? Pah! All pales into insignificance against the Great Depression of the 1930s, bringing poverty to the United State unimaginable today. But whilst the hardships may be long forgotten, John Steinbeck’s masterpiece from this era lives on. Of Mice and Men is set in the world of the migrants, the American men who travelled west looking for any work they could find. A big theme throughout the play is loneliness of the migrants who travel alone. But two main characters in the story, George and Lennie, travel together and have each other.

The friendship of George and Lennie is fundamental to the story. Lennie is strong but simple-minded, and frequently gets them both into trouble; George would do better without him, but he accepts this burden – perhaps it is because he knows Lennie would never betray him. One might think of Lennie as gentle giant who wouldn’t hurt a fly, but sadly, that isn’t quite true. Lennie likes to hold tightly on to things he likes, which is how many unfortunate mice met an untimely end. We hear of a misunderstanding regarding a lady’s dress Lennie took a liking to that almost spelt the end of both of them. Alas, in spite for George’s efforts to protect Lennie from himself, this trait of his will bring their friendship to the ultimate tragedy. Continue reading

Odds and sods: March 2016

And that was March. An averagey month in terms of things going on, with a lot of my attention this month going to my 7000-word tirade over Penguin’s behaviour in the spat over the Ladybird parodies. But that’s enough of that. I can’t keep banging on about this. I’ve got other things to catch up on. Let’s take a look at what’s been happening.

Mice and Men

800x600-fitdownSaw this play earlier in the month, and I would have written the review by now, only I got held up by other things, such as 7000-word triade about Penguin’s behaviour over- … hang on, I think I already mentioned that. Anyway, the review will be coming shortly, but I can advise you it’s going to be my first glowing review of 2016. I’ve never seen John Steinbeck’s play before, but it is a masterpiece, and Birmingham Rep and Touring Consortium did an excellent job between them – especially the staging. Continue reading