‘Old villains may retire....’, reads the strapline for this play, currently on stage at The Apollo, ‘but are they going straight?’ In true thriller fashion, we don’t find out the full answer to this question until the last scene, and I’m not giving it away here. Suffice to say, there are more twists and turns on the way than most of the audience will have foreseen. Even my husband, usually the first in a guess the plot contest, predicted the ending wrongly.
Mickey has invited his old partner in crime Ray to stay in his swanky Spanish villa. Clearly there has been a rift in their relationship but now Mickey is keen to renew old ties. Reuben Loake’s Mickey is perfectly played, at times understated, at times openly conceited but with an undertone of controlling aggression that surfaces every now and then. I have seen Ian Moth in many roles, often playing the charming urbane gent, but his portrayal of Ray shows his range of acting skills – a bundle of nerves, with a hint of the East-End villain swagger.
Sue Edwards, as Mickey’s glamorous second wife Francine, manages to retain an air of superiority while spitting venom at her guests, but there is a hint of vulnerability in her portrayal which saves her from being an unsympathetic character. The main target for her disdain is Brenda, played by Fiona Gwinnett, whose performance threatens at times to steal the show, even from the other talent on stage, but she too has her vulnerable point, as we discover towards the end.
If there is a criticism of ‘Going Straight’ it is that the first half of the script has a lot of talking and less action in it – this is fully redressed in the second half, but in less skilful hands it could start rather slowly. The great characterisation of every role however keeps us interested, from the ‘old lags’ reminiscing about the past to the bitchy rivalry of their respective spouses.
The mystery really starts when Polly, played wonderfully by Susan Simpson, arrives to interview the two men for a Channel 4 documentary. From this point the questions about who is really doing what behind the scenes take off.
And talking of behind the scenes, no review of this play could be complete without a mention of the amazing technical wizardry emanating from the specially constructed sound and lighting system – set up in the balcony because it just wouldn’t all fit in the usual ‘box’. Dan Burns has excelled himself: absolutely spot on cue were not just doorbells and phones ringing, but offstage Spanish conversations and videos on Mickey’s state of the art CCTV screen – rewinding, playing back scenes we had just witnessed on the stage and apparently off-screen action, including Mickey driving off in a (correct for Spain) left hand drive car – yes, I do notice such details!!
This attention to detail pervades everything, from the carefully ostentatious set to the perfectly judged costumes for each character – we could tell so much about them before they ever opened their mouths. All of this was of course brought together by the talented direction of Amy Burns, and every person connected with this production in whatever capacity is to be congratulated.
‘Going Straight’ continues its run at The Apollo every evening until Saturday 28th October – curtain up at 7.30pm. Don’t miss it!