Review: The York Realist @ Crucible Theatre

Set during the 1960s, a hard-working Yorkshire farmer, George, is volunteered for a part in the York Mystery Plays by his busybody (and somewhat devoted) neighbour; where he meets and falls in love with John, the London-based and rather cosmopolitan assistant director. But despite their feelings for each other, the differences in their two very different worlds soon becomes apparent.

Director Robert Hastie shepherds the cast with skill, never shying away from the intensity and emotional impact of silence and pause in the midst of the drama; and eliciting quality performances from the cast with an unassuming ease. Jonathan Bailey (Broadchurch) and Ben Blatt (Spooks) excel in their respective performances as John and George, having a terrific on-stage chemistry and engaging in performances which were wholly absorbing, touching and brimming with genuine emotion. Brian Fletcher’s monosyllabic character of Jack brought some of the lighter moments within the piece, whilst Lesley Nicol (Downtown Abbey) brings a warm and instantly recognisable charm to her portrayal as the down to earth matriarch of the family, which is as homely as the cottage kitchen that makes up the stage.

Peter Gill’s script vacillates from fast-paced, northern humour-filled dialogue to long, silent pauses of emotional drama with ease; and is reflective of the changes in society at the time, both in terms of the progress of modern life and the beginning of a change in attitudes. There is an underlying reticence of some of the characters to move on into the modern world, which mirrors the cautious approach of John and George to their relationship; and, in particular, whether George lives his life for himself or for others, despite his family’s unspoken acceptance of his sexuality. There is a real tension between the old-fashioned values and the familiar feel of a comfortable, established life and the progression into a time of social and economic change; which sits alongside a head-on clash of city and country life and a disparity between the social classes of the protagonists.

Running at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre until 7th April 2018, The York Realist is a touching, tender and tear inducing piece of heartfelt and beautifully understated theatre. It features solid central performances from two actors with a genuine on-stage chemistry, and enough Yorkshire humour to satisfy the home crowd.

Visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk for tickets and details

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