In some ways it’s very difficult to imagine the UK back in the 1960s. But this was a decade where socially and morally the country really began to change. Ideas and standards which had been accepted as the norm for generations started to be questioned, and behaviour which would have been deemed wholly inappropriate before started to be acceptable. However, social change takes a while to filter out to everybody and if you were a lad in the early 1960s then there were rules and you were expected to follow them. This is the heart of Stan Barstow’s 1960 novel A Kind of Loving which was turned into a film, TV series and now, with a new adaptation by John Godber, a play being presented at the Jack Studio Theatre.
Victor Brown (Adam Goodbody) is a twenty year old Yorkshire lad from a traditional working class background. His dad (David Kerr) is a miner and his mum (Maggie Robson) rules the house and her three children, all of whom have ambitions to move up the social scale. Vic himself is a draughtsman in an engineering company and, like many a lad of his age, his day is dominated by thoughts of the opposite sex, especially in the form of eighteen-year-old secretary Ingrid Rothwell (Courtney Buchner). Thanks to a forgotten bus fare, the two of them get talking and then go out on a couple of dates. Vic realises that for him, Ingrid represented a chase but, having captured her, he quickly finds his interest waning. Unfortunately for Ingrid she has fallen in love with Vic who, thanks to his lusty loins, leads her on until she succumbs to his sexual advances. The result of this late night fumble is an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy, much to the consternation of everyone around, particularly Ingrid’s parents (Simon Chappell and Annabelle Green). However, Victor knows his duty and while he may not love Ingrid – in fact he’s not even that keen on her – he manfully accepts the consequences of his actions, steps up and offers to marry her.
When I read the blurb for A Kind of Loving, I was a little worried that it would be a very dated story difficult to translate in the modern world. And, yes it is. The story and social ideas are very 1960s and the language – especially when the blokes are talking about women – is very much of that era. But, having said that, there is something timeless about the idea of someone ‘doing the right thing’ irrespective of their own personal feelings. Victor tells his, for want of a better word, courtship of Ingrid directly to the audience, so we really only get his side of the story.
Luckily, the writing doesn’t make him out to be some kind of hero and he is written as a very down to earth flawed human being. In order to do this successfully, the casting of Vic is really important. He has the potential to come across as either cold and unsympathetic or as a victim of the conniving actions of a woman, when in reality his story is much more complicated than that. Adam Goodbody manages to tread the line successfully. His Vic is a personable young lad who is honest with the audience – if not to Ingrid and his family – and is open about his feelings, meaning that we, his confidants if you like, are on his side, even if we don’t necessarily agree with everything her thinks and says. There is a lot of dialogue to get out and Adam delivers it in really fine style, with a good accent and a winning personality. In this, Adam is brilliantly matched with Courtney Buchner as Ingrid and their scenes together feel natural and really like two young people going through something momentous. Again, ingrid is a character that could be played a variety of ways but Courtney manages to bring out the wide eyed innocence of ingrid and portray her as a naive young girl with a head full of romance and domineering mother for whom, no man – except perhaps the Prince of Wales – will ever be good enough. A splendid performance from Anabelle Green. All round, this is a really good cast and special mention should be given to John Chisham, David East, Hana Kelly, Josh Husselbee and Oliver Lyndon who – delightfully turned out in very era appropriate clothing by designer Cara Evans – play multiple characters that inhabit Vic and Ingrid’s world.
At just over two hours, including interval, I was worried that the play might be a bit long, but the time went by fast and I was really engrossed in Vic’s story. There were a couple of minor issues with lighting and blocking which were a bit distracting with shadows appearing in unexpected places, at one point virtually blocking out Mr Brown’s face completely. On the whole though Director Elizabeth Elstub has brought us a very good play that is not only entertaining but gives a fascinating picture of English social morals and society of the English at the start of a period where everything was questioned and, for some the decline and fall of the UK really began.
Review by Terry Eastham
How can you think you’ve found so much and suddenly wake-up and find you’ve found nothing at all. It’s 1962. Victor Brown is 20 years old and he’s infatuated with Ingrid Rothwell, a typist from the factory where he works. Both are from Cressley, a working-class town in West Riding, Yorkshire. Victor soon finds his feelings for Ingrid have nothing to do with love. But Ingrid loves Victor and agrees to carrying on with their unofficial courtship in bus shelters, parks and the cinema.
Ignorance leads to Ingrid getting pregnant, and they are forced into a marriage that neither is ready for and Vic doesn’t want. When Vic moves in with his in-laws everything changes, and the bargaining begins.
A Kind of Loving was published in 1960 and made Stan Barstow one of the key voices of the 1960’s cultural renaissance in British life.
The Creative Team
Adaptation | John Godber
Writer | Stan Barstow
Director | Elizabeth Elstub
Designer | Cara Evans
Lighting Designer | Corrie Harris
Sound Designer | Molly Linfield
Voice and Accent Coach | Lucy Atkinson Parker
Producer | Elizabeth Elstub, Bang Theatre
The Cast | Adam Goodbody, Courtney Buchner, David Kerr, Maggie Robson, Annabelle Green, John Chisham, Josh Husselbee, Simon Chappell, David East, Oliver Lyndon, Hana Kelly.
Venue: Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH
Box office: www.brockleyjack.co.uk