Shane Richie is...The Entertainer

The Entertainer

Theatre Severn

18th November-23rd November

(Matinees 14.30 Wednesday and Saturday)

The year is 1956, the playwright John Osborne, the play is The Entertainer. Written with an aim to break the Angry Young Man image of his earlier “Look Back in Anger,” he still promotes the Fourth Wall, Kitchen Sink Drama genre, The Entertainer is a strange play and although contemporized from the Suez Canal crisis to the Falklands it still sits uncomfortably with other plays that have been given the title of great works.

In truth the characters of the dysfunctional Rice family are all equally unlikeable and one found oneself asking the question do the characters actually ostracize the audience and leave them with a feeling of apathy towards them? It is a possibility.

Archie Rice is an entertainer of the old school. His career like his genre of comedy is dated. He knows this at the bottom of his heart but he is still trying. He still has contact with his three children one of them being away and serving in the Falklands war. The play is a statement on the changes not only in entertainment but in expectations: Expectations from a generation new and free, his children, his wife and his ailing father. There are expectations too from his audience. There is no reference in the text as to where Rice was with his audience ratings but doggedly he continues performing his rather seedy down at heel comedy. He has to try and hold onto an idea that is like ice melting into the past and he can’t change, he is a dinosaur, like so many comedians we see nowadays as comedy changes direction and some of those in it don’t.

Whether the play successfully still fits today and whether the contemporizing is a good idea or other is a matter of personal taste. But the performances are superb. Shane Richie finds Rice so beautifully. He has a mock sincerity and a good sheen of patina in his aging act and with his own style of integrity he ploughs on. For Mr. Richie the role fits like a glove and he is a strong and reliable Rice. So much hinges on this character and his role is admirably fulfilled. With tender performances from both Diana Vickers, (Jean Rice) and Pip Donaghy (Billy Rice) and strong interpretations from both Sara Crowe (Phoebe Rice) and Christopher Bonwell (Frank Rice) this is a play that needs to be seen. For utter Stanislavskian emersion into character there can be non-finer.

Design is important and the set works well easily splitting between Archie’s stage and the deep front room that the Rice’s share as a family home. The use of eighties music as the audience came in was cleverly playing to set the mis-en-scene. Whether it was worth contemporizing the play back to the Falklands seemed an odd choice, surely the young of today would know probably as much about that as they do the Suez Crisis. Maybe set in the Gulf War might give the play more kudos and relevance.

This play is a stage treat, wonderful acting , superb characterisation and great directing. The play for this critic, might have said slightly more but overall the cast put in a great shift and they take this review up another star with their incredibly tight performances.

The show runs all week and as I often say make sure you go and see if I am right.

This is a Four Star Review.

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet. Follow hos blogspot at https://owenscribblerlewis.blogspot.com

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