Buckets of charisma are a must in any production of Bill Naughton’s play Alfie. How else can an audience relate to the central character of Alfie Elkins who uses and abandons women, slapping one after she has just aborted his child and generally acts with swagger and aggression?
Yes, great charm is called for otherwise the play set in London in the ‘Swinging Sixties’ is doomed from the start. Fortunately in this show produced by the Bolton Octagon, actor David Ricardo-Pearce has charisma in spades. He chats, cajoles and flirts with the audience, involving them in his narcissistic escapades and making them laugh at his callous behaviour and misogyny. Francesca Ryan‘s performance of an older woman at the height of her sensuality who gives Alfie a taste of his own, somewhat bitter, medicine is also wonderful.
The set design is minimal; completely bare, in fact. The actors wheel in the props as necessary, including hospital beds and a public bar. The constant changes brought a vibrancy to the play many feel they know through the iconic 1960s movie starring Michael Caine.
It would be easy to think of Alfie as a period piece, but this production revealed many resonances with today’s world – Alfie after all is just a lonely man looking for ‘happiness’ but in his frustration at not knowing how to find it lashes out at the world. A timeless story, indeed.
- Susan Riley