Brighton Rock Review

The Lowry, Salford Quays, Manchester – until Saturday 26 June 2018

Reviewed by Julie Noller


Brighton Rock is a deliciously dark drama full of suspense; it’s brilliantly adapted by Bryony Lavery from the novel originally written by Graham Greene. Full of meloncolic music that plays it’s own important part in keeping you glued to the edge of your seat whilst this thriller enthralls you, including drum beats that echo through the auditorium, mimicking your own heartbeat. The stage set up is simple yet perfectly devised by director Esther Richardson. The basic lightbulbs do just enough to light up and bring to life the right character, highlighting their story. Most actors actually double up on the parts played, for it’s a small cast. However at no point is there ever any confusion regarding just who we are watching or listening to. Most of our characters are mob based, dressed in dark depressing and almost stealth like blacks for this is the underworld of Brighton. It could be modern day if it weren’t for the dress sense that gives us the impression of Britain pre World War II You could be forgiven for wondering are we watching a whodunit? I believe it’s the sad and lonely tale of wasted lives wondering down the wrong path and how once gone astray can lead to paranoia, the mind to fall apart and ultimately spiral out of control.

Ida (Gloria Onitiri) we are introduced to first listening to a gramophone, wondering to herself or to us. She’s portrayed with devastating effect as a woman of lose morals yet our perception alters as the play gathers pace to realise she is infact the epitome of everyone’s moral conscience. Ida could well be a nightclub singer for we hear her sing on more than one occasion. She is the only voice who cries out that Fred deserves justice that something more sinister must have happened. Her trusty sidekick is Phil (Chris Jack) loyal and loving these characters make me feel like I’m watching a gritty Agatha Christie.  Like Miss Marple and her all seeing eyes Ida senses and trusts her judgement that things are about to go very wrong. She pretends to be the mother of young Rose (Sarah Middleton) to firstly gain her trust, warn her and finally save her. Young foolish, naive Rose who pretends to be seventeen instead of sixteen because it’s so grown up. Young Rose who innocently sees the good in the only boy to show her attention, wrongly and immaturely believing it love just like the movies she and every other teenage girl dreams of living in. Yet confusingly you realise she isn’t stupid, she may go about every day life in a some what haphazard manor, but this lottery called life she manages to sweetly navigate in a childlike manor, questioning everything. Sarah Middleton is almost girl guide-esque with her squeaky clean image and voice to match. It’s as if she senses that Pinkie isn’t the person he would like to be. Pinkie (Jacob James Beswick) is a child playing at toy gangsters. The question is why did he order his gang to attack and kill Fred?

Pinkie and his gang sometimes reminded me of West Side Story yet at others a very dark sociopath hell bent on domination of Brighton’s criminal underworld after deposing of former gang leader. Pinkie a character of hidden depth, like a toddler learning to walk. He hides behind bravado, tough talking, scaring those in front of him with threats of vitriol acid. You know he’s just a little boy lost in a world he doesn’t truly understand, he’s streetwise but not people-wise. Rose shows him love not in a deep caring way but almost like a puppy dog. He is young, far too young to understand all these human emotions yet the one thing he does understand is the instinct of survival. However with his flight or fight mode heading into overdrive he slowly but surely loses all control. More killings follow that of Fred aka newspaper man Kolley Kibber and ageing mob man Spicer (Angela Bain) for that one mistake can lead to further mistakes and change the course of history. The story touches on religion namely Catholicism or Romans in slang term. How the characters deal with sin, how the flesh is weak but the mind is strong. Guilt is part and parcel of being a Catholic, living to repent and praying for forgiveness. We see characters divided over faith and how they believe. Pinkie who doesn’t do confession, yet in meltdown over having to marry Rose in order to save himself from the truth she unwittingly knows. The marriage is a sham yet it’s there as clear to see that he believes marriage is forever. Rose believes God is watching.

Demon drink ruins gang member Cubitt (Marc Graham) and he spills his guts and takes Ida’s money in order to escape a life he no longer wants. As with all those American gangster films where it quite often comes down to the weak willed lawyer giving evidence. It is the case here, the police are interested and Pinkie believing he can no longer outrun the Bogey turns his own hatred against himself and pours his acid to destroy his own face. Sweet justice some may say, but he is still a child. Brighton Rock is a wonderful play that grips you from start to finish, it moves at a steady fast pace through out. I loved the use of slang, it added character yet wasn’t at all hard to work out. As the characters had pointed out if you cut open the deepest rooted gangster they would still have Brighton written all he way through like a stick of rock.