Mark Ravenhill’s new play is superb! Not just sensitively written but beautifully acted and directed, by Polly Thomas, to bring out all its pathos and humour.
The play is autobiographical, focussing on Ravenhll’s mother, Angela, christened Rita, magnificently played by Pam Ferris, who contrives to make the play a very moving experience to listen to, by quickly convincing us that she is not an actor playing a part but a real live person who cannot understand what is happening to her in old age. When the play begins she is 84, and in a secure home suffering with dementia. The play frequently uses flashback, but this is always crystal clear to the listener because of Ravenhill’s writing. We begin to understand Angela through the intercutting between her memories and her mind failing her – her youth, growing up and moving away from her roots.
All this is poignantly set against Mark’s experience of beginning to learn ballet. He is portrayed by Jackson Laing as the young Mark and Joseph Millson when he is older. The actors here have been well chosen so that their voices blend; we instinctively do not question that they are the same person, yet it is always clear whether it is the younger or older Mark speaking.
Other roles include Matti Houghton as the Younger Angela, another voice imaginatively chosen to blend with Pam Ferris’, and Toby Jones as Angela’s husband Ted, who fails to comprehend Angela’s dementia and her unwillingness to see or speak to him: the pain is movingly evident here.
But it is Pan Ferris’ central, tour-de-force, performance which binds this play into one which should not be missed.
Congratulations to all concerned, especially composer Faye Braithwaite whose understated work we do not notice, which is as it should be, and sound recordist Louis Blatherwick who made listening a very involving pleasure.
Very highly recommended.
Review by John Groves
Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Pitlochry Festival Theatre in collaboration with Naked Productions present
By Mark Ravenhill
Director Polly Thomas
Assistant Director Emma Lynne Harley.
Composer Alexandra Faye Braithwaite
Sound Recordist Louis Blatherwick
Sound Design John Scott
Older Angela – Pam Ferris
Younger Angela – Matti Houghton
Mark – Joseph Millson
Young Mark- Jackson Laing
Ted – Toby Jones
Julie, Nurse 1, and Plummy Woman – Nadia Albina
Doctor Adetiba, and Director – Dermot Daly
Doctor Mansoor and Plummy Man – Raj Ghatak
The Fox and Doctor Carter – Olivier Huband
Angela’s mum, Ballet teacher, Nurse 2, and Ivy – Alexandra Mathie
The Social Worker, Ballet woman and Nurse 3 – Kirsty Stuart
Angela is a Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Pitlochry Festival Theatre production in association with Naked Productions Ltd and BBC Radio 3 for Sound Stage.
Sound Stage commissions were made possible with support from Creative Scotland through its Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund