Peter Gill’s funny but wistful love story is
based on his own diversity of experience: his Yorkshire background; his
involvement with the Mystery plays; and his early theatrical work in London
during the social and political changes of the 1960s.
The York Realist is set in
1961 in a labourer’s cottage six miles outside York. George, an extremely
handsome young labourer, works from dawn till dusk, farming and taking
care of his ailing mother. His life is overturned when he meets John, a young
director from London who arrives on the doorstep wanting to know why he has not
attended rehearsals for the York Mystery Plays. John is young and
hesitant but obviously very attracted to George who, though unable to
show his emotions outwardly, reciprocates the feelings in his own way.
George’s close-knit family is nearby: his
sister and her husband living on a council estate with electricity and hot
water. They are the beginning of a new and more modern generation and are worried
about their son, a ferocious teenager with no interest at all in farming life,
who is soon to leave school.
Doreen, the neighbour, is hopelessly in love
with George. All seem to accept his sexual orientation without question however and it
is never mentioned. Doreen is aware that he is not the marrying kind but she
still hangs around.
The play begins at a moment some years after
the main timeframe of the plot with a visit from John, now fairly prosperous
and still trying to persuade George to come to London to be an actor. It seems
however that the two worlds can never come together: John has to stay in London for his work; George feels he would be underrated as an actor, always being cast as the token
Yorkshireman (during that period in British theatre regional accents were not
acceptable in lead roles).
The Yorkshire cottage setting by Kate Guinness
is warm and full of atmosphere, with plenty of expressive touches such as the
kitchen range, brown teapot and Victorian bric-a-brac.
Adam Spreadbury-Maher is probably one
of the most talented directors on the Fringe scene and his casting is
perfection. Stephen Hagan could not be bettered as George: seemingly
unemotional but with torrents of feeling lurking beneath. Matthew Burton is
unusual but triumphant casting as John and the rest of the distinguished
company are totally convincing and must be congratulated on the authenticity of
their Yorkshire attitudes and uncommonly accurate East Yorkshire