Review of Brimstone and Treacle at The Hope Theatre

Brimstone and Treacle
Brimstone and Treacle

Banned from transmission by the BBC in the 1970s, this excellent production coincides with the 40th anniversary of Dennis Potter’s controversial play.

Patricia ‘Pattie’ Bates (Olivia Beardsley) is being cared for by her parents, Tom (Paul Clayton) and Amy Bates (Stephanie Beattie), after being paralysed following an accident whilst out visiting a friend two years earlier. The family are relaxing at home when they receive an unexpected visit from Martin (Fergus Leathem) who not only says he knows Tom, but also purports to be Pattie’s college sweetheart, but is he who he claims to be?

The four-strong cast all give excellent performances. Paul Clayton is solid as Tom Bates delivering Tom’s various rants extremely well. Clayton has great chemistry with Stephanie Beattie, who is excellent as Amy who is clearly nearing the end of her tether as she tries to balance being a full-time carer for her invalid daughter whilst trying to appease her difficult husband. Beattie’s delivery is sensitive and believable particularly during an emotional scene between the two where Amy tries to convince a disbelieving Tom that Pattie is improving and trying to communicate

Fergus Leathem’s portrayal of the stranger (Martin) is brilliant, delivering his lines extremely well (the evil looks he gives over his shoulder to the audience add a bit of fun to the piece). His rendition of “You are my sunshine” to the entranced Pattie is particularly memorable. Olivia Beardsley shows great physicality in her performance as the bedridden Pattie. Although she has little dialogue, the timing of the rolling eyes, spasms and occasional shouts which are Pattie’s only means of communication is first class.

Rachel Ryan’s set and costume are pure 1970s retro. Tom Kitney’s clever use of lighting and Phil Matejtschuk’s sound enhance the more sinister moments of the piece extremely well.

Whilst the play’s story is dark and disturbing at times, Potter’s script and Matthew Parker’s excellent direction make this an enjoyable production.

5 Star Rating

Review by Karen Pond

Intense and macabre, prophetic and darkly funny, Dennis Potter’s infamous play Brimstone and Treacle exposes the horror lurking in Middle England minds. Behind floral curtains, Mr and Mrs Bates care for their daughter left injured and insensible following a car crash. A young visitor with a silver tongue crashes into their lives, but is he their saviour, a thief or the Devil himself?

Brimstone and Treacle was originally written as a BBC Play for Today in 1976, but was initially banned on its release due to its shocking and disturbing content; it had its first production in 1977 at the Sheffield Crucible. Today the work’s depiction of an England as a powder keg of prejudice and fear is more relevant than ever. Following a critically acclaimed and award-winning 2016 season of in-house productions The Hope Theatre (Fringe Theatre of the Year nominee, The Stage Awards) is proud to present the 40th-anniversary production of this claustrophobic and divisive play to life with pitch-black humour and a whiff of sulphur.

Directed by The Hope Theatre’s Off West End Award-winning Artistic Director Matthew Parker the cast features Olivia Beardsley (The Babadook), Stephanie Beattie, (Break A Leg Critics Choice Best Actress for Steel Magnolias), Fergus Leathem (Game of Thrones) and Paul Clayton (Peep Show, Him & Her).

brimstone and treacle
2 – 20 May 2017

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