Evening Telegraph, 6th December 1974
powerful piece by David Rudkin does not enjoy many revivals, so there is special
reason for welcoming the decision by the Royal Shakespeare Company to stage the
play in their studio theatre.
when it is given the sort of skilled attention which it is here, the prospect of
a rewarding evening is matched by the event itself.
group of men gather in the early morning to pick fruit. Some of them are genuine
sons of the soil, steeped in rural tradition and bucolic folklore. But there are
others – casuals – just there for the money.
like Larry, a young student, and Jeff, a superficially hard case, who appears to
get on well with the men.
they and a woman named Mrs. Trevis take their orders from Spens, the foreman, the
atmosphere is easy, relaxed. But, as the action proceeds, a gathering air of
menace becomes stronger, as the men turn their aggression towards an old Irish
tramp named Roche.
Carter arrives on the scene with his mate, Tiny. Johnny is on a sort of parole
from a mental hospital, to which he has to return each evening. And Johnny is
is concerned because he knows what is going to happen. He sees in Larry
something of his one-time innocence – now obliterated. He is determined to
protect Larry from the involvement in the evil which is to come. And in this, at
least, he succeeds.
build-up is the result of a prejudice rooted in superstition. The consequences
Daniels’s admirable production sags just a little at the beginning of the
second act but is generally imaginative and detailed harnessing some fine
performances to a total effect which is often riveting.
Pennington’s portrait of Johnny is a sensitively conceived and compassionately
realised piece of acting which confirms him as one of the more important members
of the rising young members of the RSC.
Booth lends to Spens the matter-of-fact brutality and meanness of a semi-sadist
who knows the limitations of his power over the men. It’s another finely
judged piece of work from an actor who doesn’t always receive the recognition
general quality of the performances is pretty well sustained with distinguished
contributions from people like Cornelius Garrett (Larry), Sheila Kelley (Mrs Trevis) and most notably, Ian McDiarmid whose performance as the ill-fated Roche
is both inventive and compelling.
the psychopathic tendencies of some of the men are a shade under-emphasised, but
the eventual staging of the ‘kill’ is deeply disturbing in its intensity.