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Brighton Rock at Birmingham Rep

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by dpm (subscribe)
dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
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Stylish adaptation of mob story
Graham Greene's Brighton Rock is given a classy makeover in this touring production by Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal. Adapted by Bryony Lavery and directed by Esther Richardson, the play is fast-moving and stylish with lots of clever touches to take us into the action. On national tour, it's performed at Birmingham Repertory Theatre until April 14.

Brighton Rock isn't an easy story to like. It centres on the loathsome Pinkie, a teenager would-be mobster whose total amorality is never explained. When the unfortunate waitress Rose becomes a witness in a murder, Pinkie decides the best way to keep her silent is to pretend to fall in love with her. Unlikely as it seems, Rose is totally smitten and willing to do whatever Pinkie asks of her.

Brighton Rock Graham Greene
Pinkie and Rose in Brighton Rock

With live music underlying the tension, there are lots of real moments of drama including the first murder, a killing at the race course and the final confrontation on Brighton Pier.

Jacob James Beswick is a swaggering Pinkie whose awkwardness both with his fellow mobsters and with Rose reveals his youth and insecurity. Once Rose is hooked he doesn't quite know how to deal with this moonstruck teenager played with clinging devotion by Sarah Middleton.

But Pinkie's nemesis comes in an unlikely form Ida, a woman who just happened to meet his murder victim on the day he died and who decides she has a duty to find out the truth. Ida is played with vigour and enthusiasm by Gloria Onitri, who recently dominated the stage as Cruella de Vil in The Rep's 101 Dalmations.

Brighton Rock Graham Greene
Pinkie's nemesis Ida

Richardson uses her cast of nine in all kinds of imaginative ways and doesn't shy away from placing women in male roles. There's even a touch of irony in this as kingpin mobster Colleoni, played by Jennifer Jackson, introduces herself as Mrs Colleoni. Designer Sara Perks creates one set which, with slight alteration, can become a bar or hotel, Pinkie's lodgings and Brighton Pier. The set is as dark as the story with the only flash of colour being Ida who favours scarlet, ensuring the audience sets her apart, both visually and morally.

Brighton Rock is a hugely complex novel which touches on themes of love, loyalty, right and wrong, faith and belief but this production captures its essence in two-and-a-half hours. Extraneous detail is stripped out, roles are concentrated and the story is distilled so that it captures the audience and takes us on a rapid and dangerous journey.

For full details of the tour see

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Why? Stylish adaptation of classic novel
When: Until 14 April
Phone: 0121 236 4455
Where: Birmingham Rep
Cost: From 15
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