Brighton Rock at Birmingham Rep

#BrumHour’s Julie Wallis was sent to see Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock which is at Birmingham Rep until Saturday 14th April.

By Julie Wallis twitter.com/nicenic63

Brighton Rock at Birmingham Rep

Even though this story is fairly well known, and I have not read Brighton Rock myself, I did know a little of the story. It revolves around Pinkie, a thug and a crook, who at 17 has big ideas about keeping Brighton clean. Pinkie runs a protection racket, and is pretty much an all round bad guy. Rose is a 16 year old waitress, who knows a little too much about a local murder. Rose knows more than even she realises and she could see Pinkie go to prison, but if Pinkie marries Rose then she cannot give evidence against her husband.

Brighton Rock is a harrowing story that could so easily be set in 2018, with threats of acid being thrown in Rose’s face and Pinkie having his face slashed by way of a warning from a rival gang.

Jacob James Beswick as Pinkie and Sarah Middleton as Rose photo by Karl Andre Photography
Jacob James Beswick as Pinkie and Sarah Middleton as Rose photo by Karl Andre Photography

This play is worthy, it’s serious, gritty and far removed from my usual choice of musical. I did find it tough to watch, before the interval we had seen two murders and I felt I had earned my glass of wine!

The rising tension, uses a drummer beating out a heartbeat that gets faster and faster, adding a wonderful new dimension to the fear factor. Act one: Fred is recognised and he knows he is in trouble, a gang of thugs approach him and the drummer begins beating the rapidly rising heartbeat. Eventually, the thugs “do in” poor old Fred. I had no idea what Fred had done, why he had returned under a new name, seemingly as newspaper man Kolley Kibber, who will give ten bob (50p) to anyone who recognises him and who’s name turned out to be Charlie. Was Charlie really Fred or was it mistake identity? Annoyingly I never worked it out.

Marc Graham as Police Inspector and Jacob James Beswick as Pinkie photo by Karl Andre Photography.
Marc Graham as Police Inspector and Jacob James Beswick as Pinkie photo by Karl Andre Photography.

Obviously Brighton Rock is set in Brighton and I think a lot of the characters were supposed to be from London originally. As I’m London born, I did find accents a bit “Gor Blimey”.

That said, Sarah Middleton as Rose was very good, her accent was authentic and she played the part of a naive 16 year old convincingly. Rose is a sweet child, likeable, innocent and caring. Sarah played her well and poor Rose was the only character I really cared for, probably because she was just an innocent in the midst of a lot of viciousness.

Jacob James Beswick as Pinkie was menacing and maintained a reasonable accent too. Pinkie has no good side or any redeeming features and Jacob plays the part well too.
Gloria Onitiri as Ida, who was fond of Fred had a great part, probably the most likeable character in the whole play, she was vivacious and fun. Ida sings a couple of times, this is not a musical, it just happens that Ida sings and her singing voice is rather beautiful. I was (internally) cheering Ida on in her in her quest to get justice for Fred who’s real name was Charlie but who we knew as Kolley Kibber.

Gloria Onitiri as Ida and Shamira Turner as Old Crowe photo by Karl Andre Photography
Gloria Onitiri as Ida and Shamira Turner as Old Crowe photo by Karl Andre Photography

“Stand out” scenes include at the horse races, when a crowd was leaning against the barriers watching as the horses galloped past. Without giving too much away, I enjoyed both the way the horses were portrayed and the way Ida reacted.

There are a lot of set changes in Brighton Rock. But with the clever use of a mezzanine the set moves swiftly and silently from a tea rooms, to the pier, back to a rowdy bar. The sets are basic, but convey everything they need to and I actually like very bare bones sometimes. I was a little distracted when some sets moved with actors on them, especially when a set of stairs with somebody on them are being twirled about in a dance like way.

Brighton Rock photo by Karl Andre Photography
Brighton Rock photo by Karl Andre Photography

There is a lot of use of slang and a lot of the slang used of its time. Things like Bob for a shilling (5p in old money) Nicker for a pound, Blower for the telephone and Milky meaning timid or spineless. Luckily, the programme does contain a helpful guide to the slang used, but even without, the words make sense by way of the context. I found the lighting to be, once again very, very good. The light behind the pier at different times of day is particularly good, the grey light of an overcast day made me feel quite chilly.

Brighton Rock opened last night to a full house, and closed to very, very enthusiastic applause. It’s not something I loved it was so very well received I think fans of Graham Greene will get more out of this production than I did. Maybe I should read the book, after all I am intrigued by Fred now, or is he Charlie?

Brighton Rock is at Birmingham Rep until Saturday 14th April. Tickets are available here: birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/brighton-rock.html


This isn’t a sponsored post. Julie was invited to see Brighton Rock for #BrumHour by Birmingham Rep.

Julie blogs as RedandGoldWeb here: redandgoldweb.wordpress.com

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