Donmar Warehouse (venue)
24 February 2018 (released)
24 February 2018
Rob Hastie's revival of Peter Gill's 'The York Realist' aches with longing. On the face of it a romantic love story, it speaks of so many kinds of love; within families, friends, for the land we live on and for the passions that drive us. Yet this is beautifully balanced by acutely comic character observations and deliciously resonant family dynamics from the entire cast. Hastie's new production perfectly pitches these interwoven desires and when loss and grief follow, the tenderness in the relationships and moments of quiet meditation bring sweetness to the sorrow.
Ben Batt plays George a farm labourer who lives with his adoring mother (Lesley Nicol) deep in the Yorkshire dales. Secure in the safety of his family home, with sister's family in the new houses in town and next door his devoted friend Doreen who quietly hopes to marry him. When George is cast in the community production of the York Mystery Plays he meets assistant director John (Jonathan Bailey), middle cast artsy Londoner who turns up at his farm when he stops attending rehearsals. That night their affair begins...
Peter Gill's one set play written in 2001 but set in the sixties, looks back to Pinter and Osborne plays of the same form. It's a stunning naturalistic set designed by Peter McKintosh. Heavy stone flags on the floor, steel latches on the wooden doors which creak in the imagination whilst an old range warms the room and a bunch of hand-picked daffodils brighten up the kitchen table. Above the house, an image of the Dales stretches the full width of the stage, flickering in the changing light of day. With McKintosh's design, lighting by Paul Ryant and sound by Emma Laxton, one set feels far from limiting. In fact it felt so comforting, I could have sat there all day. It's little wonder George couldn't bear to leave it.
The love affair between two men is utterly romantic, Ben Batt and Jonathan Bailey, superb as George and John, their longing palpable and the conflict familiar. Though class differences are a source of comedy and fascination, in fact it's neither class nor social prejudice that divides them in the end. There is tacit and touching support from George's family who understood he was 'not the marrying type' and genuinely want him to be happy. George and John cannot be together because they are in love with different worlds, Yorkshire farmland and the London art scene. 'This is my home!' cries George in desperation. Of course, we can long for a place as we can for a person. In them both we find a place to belong. Peter Gill's play explores both with the lightest of touch.
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