Review by David Munro
GOING Straight, by Richard Harris, were it not
for 'adult' language and some smutty jokes, would have been an
ideal 'matinee' play.
The sort you could take your maiden aunt to, pointing out that
it starred that nice Miss Collins and Mr Alderton that you enjoyed
so much as the footman and housemaid in Upstairs, Downstairs.
It is an implausible but pleasant piece concerning itself with
a retired head of a London gang – sorry 'firm' (as he was
quick to point out) - living in super-tech- protected luxury in
a villa in Spain.
He has invited his former second-in-command, plus wife, for a
visit because, as it transpires, Channel 4 are making a film/documentary
based on their criminal activities.
A researcher from the studio interviews them; a nice girl, but
not (as you might expect ) exactly whom she appears to be.
In case there are any of you who will not guess the plot in
the first ten minutes, I will not delve deeper into the storyline,
except to say that what ensues is entertaining, if far-fetched.
It is, in fact, the sort of play that you enjoy at the time but
does not bear much probing for plausibility thereafter.
It is true that most of the pleasure is gained from watching
the highly competent actors going through the author’s dramatic
Chief of these is John Alderton, as Michael, the super criminal,
who glories in his past and is not ashamed to talk about it.
His East End accent is about as authentic as a pearly kings
costume, but it suits the character of a man who has played a
part all his life and doesn’t know when to stop.
As the character dominates the his confreres so Alderton dominates
the cast. You get the impression he does not believe a word of
his dialogue but that he is enjoying delivering it with his tongue
firmly in his cheek, a presentation of the part that pays dividends
at the final denouement.
As his dyspeptic and possibly dying side-kick, Raymond, George
Costigan is an admirable foil for Alderton.
Giving as good as he gets, he builds up a very sympathetic character
of a man loyal to his boss and his code of ethics, but innately
simple and probably decent under his crooked exterior.
A character not dissimilar to that he played as George in Of
Mice and Men.
Raymond’s wife, Brenda, is brilliantly brought to life
by Pauline Collins. She compensates for the very minimal dialogue
given to the character by making every line tell and when she
has nothing to say, she still dominates the stage with her presence;
a silent commentary on the other’s antics.
Gone is the nice Shirley Valentine and in her place is a tough
East End wife, fiercely protective of the man she married, and
prepared to put up with whatever he does so long as she can turn
a blind eye to it.
By sheer force of personality and acting skills, she turns what
could have been a cipher in to a real character and a force to
be reckoned with.
You may ask why she took such a subsidiary
part. My answer to that is that I suspect, (and I have nothing
with which to back up my suspicion), she and Alderton saw the
opportunity the play would give to their daughter, Kate Alderton,
who plays Polly, the film company researcher.
If so, they must be proud that she took the opportunity offered
and gave a performance which, if more muted, matched those of
Beside having the attractive good looks of her parents, she
has inherited their dramatic skills as well.
You realise from the outset that Polly is not what she seems;
not just from the dialogue, but from the nuances and body language
of Miss Alderton’s performance.
On the surface, it is a very good and extremely competent performance
as the Essex Girl studio hanger on being given her big chance
to make good.
Underlying that, one senses the steel in her character, so that
when the mask is removed, the character is wholly plausible in
her alter ego.
I see her stealing the notices from Mum and Dad, but I don’t
suppose for a minute they will begrudge them to her; she is an
actress definitely to be watched.
Francine, Michael’s wife, is a peripheral character and,
one suspects, is only there to make up numbers at dinner and provide
an excuse for John Alderton to prove that the heartless crook
may have a heart after all.
Carol Royle plays her with cold charm emphasising that her marriage
was a bargain from which she reckons she has come out the winner.
She is allowed a few catty moments with Pauline Collins, which
provide an amusing counterpoint to their husbands Batman and Robin
The set, by Hayden Grffin, has the right air of opulent vulgarity
one would expect from the characters and allows for a wall television
screen which plays a significant part in the plot.
Alan Strachan moves the piece along at a spanking pace disguising
the plot flaws with an enviable expertise and adding the required
verisimilitude to what would otherwise be a very unconvincing
The play is an enjoyable piece of theatre and makes a pleasant,
if somewhat dated, contrast to the school of realism and self
analysis which seems to dominate today’s 'good' plays.
I am all for escapism if it is well done and this is really
well done. I wish the excellent cast good luck when they transfer
to the West End where it will probably be dismissed for all the
reasons I find it so appealing.
It is theatrical, implausible and far-fetched, but if you come
out at the end of feeling you have spent an enjoyable few hours,
isn’t that what 'Theatre' is all about?
I think so anyway and for that reason have no hesitation in
motivating you into going straight to see it!
Going Straight, by Richard Harris.
Directed by Alan Strachan; Set Designer, Hayden Griffin; Costume
Designer, Christopher Cahill; Lighting, Jason Taylor; Video Director,
Nic Alderton; Music Director.
CAST: John Alderton; Pauline Collins; George Costigan; Carol Royle;
Presented by Bill Kenwright.
Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 IQJ.
Mon, Nov 1 – Sat, Nov 6, 2004
Evenings: 7.45pm / Matinees: Wed. & Sat. 2.30pm.
Box Office: 020 8940 0088.