‘I live here. I live here. You can’t see that, though. You can’t see it. This is where I live. Here.’
This is a tremendous revival directed by Robert Hastie (Splendour, My Night with Reg) at the Donmar in London of a play set in a remote farmhouse in Yorkshire in the sixties about family, class, and sex.
In a way, it may remind you of the recent wonderful film ‘God’s Own Country’ also based on a bleak landscape and the relationship of two quite different men.
The two men in this play fall in love against a backdrop of York’s Mystery Plays. The young farmhand, George has been missing rehearsals for his part in the play and the assistant director John pays him a visit to find out the reason. Such is the quality of the writing and the actors you sense the reasons before it becomes obvious.
The play switches time seamlessly ……from the very start of the opening scene the electricity between Ben Batt as George and Jonathan Bailey as John is astounding…..this scene is before the funeral of George’s mother and it then moves to the time before their relationship started. The final after the funeral has some outstanding scenes and will tug at your heartstrings.
The entire cast is outstanding, Lesley Nicol (known worldwide for her portrayal of Mrs. Patmore in Downton Abbey) as George’s mother, Katie West as George’s admirer Doreen, Brian Fletcher as his nephew, Jack and Lucy Black as his married sister Barbara, Matthew Wilson as her husband and boyhood friend of George is Arthur. Jonathan Bailey captures the innocence of a young man seemingly unsure of his feelings so well that many will recognize the feelings shown.
However, it is Ben Batt that carries this play with such a force, such a presence on the stage that you cannot take your eyes off him…….his whole body seems to express his feelings for John without speaking. The final moments will stay in your memory for quite some time.
It is a rarity to find such a perfect production, set, lighting, music, direction and a cast that is faultless.
Another Donmar winner as the sold-out season proved.
Review by PETER HARRINGTON: Contributing Editor
“The York Realist is a 2001 play by Peter Gill. It was premiered at the Lowry in November 2001 before moving to the Bristol Old Vic and the Royal Court Theatre in January 2002 by English Touring Theatre, with Gill himself directing.”