Withnail and I at Birmingham Rep - Review

Withnail and I at Birmingham Rep - Review


Posted 2024-05-15 by dpmfollow

Fri 03 May 2024 - Sat 25 May 2024

The classic film Withnail and I comes to the stage in all its glorious humour and quirkiness. Based by writer Bruce Robinson on his own experiences as an out-of-work actor in London, the movie’s much-loved characters take on a new lease of life in this stage production premiered at Birmingham Rep.

Fans will no doubt love the play as it follows the movie very closely with its scenes and dialogue replicated on stage but with the additional bonus that only live theatre can bring of the audience sharing the same space as the guys and their adventures.

The production, which is directed by Birmingham Rep artistic director Sean Foley, has been adapted by Robinson and so has not just the dialogue but also the rumbustious essence of the original.

Withnail and I follows the tale of two out-of-work actors living in squalour in a flat in Camden. When the men decide they need a break and head up to Penrith to stay in a cottage owned by Withnail’s Uncle Monty, they rapidly discover the countryside is not quite the idyll they had imagined.

So much so their experience is summed up in the oft-quoted line from the film and now the play ‘we’ve gone on holiday by mistake!’

Robert Sheehan revels in the role of Withnail giving us a character who is completely off his trolley and yet also with a streak of vulnerability. As he swigs his way through countless bottles of wine, runs around in his underpants and long coat and shouts drunkenly at passers-by, you love him but are also hugely relieved you’re not the one sharing a flat with him.

Marwood, the ‘I’ character, is played by Adonis Siddique with an appropriate level of worry. Where Withnail seems impervious to fear or concern, Marwood frets over every aspect of their lives. It’s a fascinating relationship because Withnail is the cause of most of Marwood’s anxieties and yet Marwood is fiercely loyal to his wayward friend.

Malcolm Sinclair plays Uncle Monty with a gentle touch. He races up to the cottage in the hope of seducing Marwood and yet accepts defeat with good grace when he believes the two younger men are lovers. A refined former actor who writes poems and drinks sherry, he is the older generation who is being eclipsed by these boisterous young men.

At the opposite end of the social spectrum is Adam Young’s Danny, the drug dealer who turns up sporadically at the flat, makes himself at home and ensures they have a steady flow of chemical stimulation. Everything about Danny is superlatively laid back from his hippy clothes to his slower-paced delivery of lines so that even when he’s not high he might as well be.

Alice Power’s design uses a series of moving backdrops and screens to take us into an impressive number of different locations including the Camden flat, Monty’s home and the Lake District cottage plus various pubs and a Penrith tearoom.

Akhila Krishnan’s video design is an integral part of the set blending ‘real’ locations such as the exterior of the guys’ flat to a touch of the psychedelic with coloured spheres and dissolving walls.

Produced by Birmingham Rep, Handmade Films and George Waud, the production brings all that theatre can be into the show so that it looks and sounds fantastic with live music providing a trip down memory lane with hits from around the late sixties when the play is set.

The huge credit is that a film which has so firmly placed itself into British movie history now has a new life on stage. Inane but also with a poignant touch which reminds us of the fragile nature of the wild times of our youth, the show will have you laughing loads while experiencing a hint of nostalgia for when we could all just jump into a car and head off into the distance without worrying about what comes next.

Withnail and I runs at Birmingham Rep until 25 May, see here for ticket information.

286171 - 2024-05-15 06:47:29


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