Jack Studio Theatre – until 16 November 2019
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Bang Theatre bring 1960’s Yorkshire to South London with John Godber’s adaptation of Stan Barstow’s novel. The story of a young couple’s courtship and quick marriage after she falls pregnant is common in books and films of the era, but Victor Brown’s take on his situation makes A Kind of Loving stand out.
Idealising women and longing to meet someone just like his adored sister, he is much happier admiring Ingrid, a typist in the factory, from afar. When they finally go out, his growing disappointment with reality and his struggle to let her know he doesn’t want to see her without hurting her feelings mean that they never actually break up. When Ingrid discovers that she’s pregnant, Vic does the right thing and offers to marry her, but they end up living with her domineering mother, and Vic feels that he is treated like a lodger.
Elizabeth Elstub’s direction feels a little static at times, but perhaps that is meant to portray Vic being trapped. The 1960s attitudes towards women jar a little, but produce amused giggles and gasps rather than outrage, but the class divisions still ring true. Vic’s working-class parents accept the situation, after initial suspicion of the girl who “trapped” her son into marriage from Vic’s mum, but Ingrid’s parents are middle class, with her engineer father working away from home. Mrs Rothwell is an overprotective snob who takes every opportunity possible to let Vic know that he will never be good enough for her daughter and does her best to undermine his relationship with his wife – the ultimate monster-in-law.
Adam Goodbody is outstanding as Vic, telling his story directly to the audience with an air of acceptance and despair as Vic’s musings on the rapidly changing world around him amplify his confusion. The character never makes any pretence at being noble, in fact some of his asides during conversations with Ingrid are cruel and vile, but Goodbody keeps Vic sympathetic and grounded. Courtney Buchner is excellent as Ingrid, full of innocent, romantic hope at first but gradually being worn down by her situation. The stoic and calm fathers are in stark contrast to the emotional mothers, with Maggie Robson a scream as Mrs Brown and Annabelle Green chillingly uptight and controlling as Mrs Rothwell. The other characters are almost caricatures but create a wonderful sense of the era and some fine comedy moments. Gritty, fun and still relevant, A Kind of Loving is a real treat.