Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Bennett, Steadman and Orton

Went to see Alan Bennett's Enjoy starring Alison Steadman and David Troughton last night. Our friend Lou had two tickets for her birthday, and after a little wrangling amongst "the gang" I was designated New Best Friend Forever for the evening.

We both mused at the realisation that this was the first play either of us had seen for a long time that wasn't a musical... But what a treat it turned out to be!

The "action" all takes place inside one of the last of the "back-to-backs" in Leeds, amongst the rubble of "slum clearance". Connie (Mam) is going a bit senile, and Dad (Wilf) is a miserable old sod ("since the hit-and run"), and is looking forward to the comforts of a new maisonette (although secretly he would miss the regular caller who supplies him with smutty mags).

Their lives are rudely interrupted by a visitor, a young lady who is apparently "from the Council", tasked with making a day-by-day observation of the lives of these "real people" for some mysterious social record, and it is from this moment on that the farce develops. Of course, the observer - who is not allowed to speak to the couple - is not exactly who she seems. And the "real life" behaviour of Connie, Wilf, and their "personal assistant" (prostitute) daughter Linda is anything but normal...

The plot twists and turns in a manner that would make Joe Orton proud, with some hilarious scenes including Dad's unfortunately premature rigor mortis (well in one part of his body anyhow), the arrival of a neighbour (making up "traditional Northern customs" for the observers) and the eventual revelation that Miss Craig, the visitor, is in fact the couple's long-lost (and to Dad, denied existence) son!

As you would expect, the acting is superb, some of the lines are Alan Bennett at his best ("I keep that toilet like a palace"), and the whole endeavour is a brilliantly woven combination of dark humour, slapstick and gritty observation of a dying way of life.

Highly recommended!

Read Charles Spencer's review in The Telegraph.

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