Director Conrad Blakemore fields a strong team for The Pope's Wedding, the second in the Cock Tavern's season of Edward Bond plays. The cast is uniformly excellent, with exceptional contributions from the main couple, Rebecca Tanwen and Tim O‘Hara, and a beautifully nuanced performance by Matt Stokoe as Bill. John Atterbury’s old man is another striking portrayal.
The over-busy scene-changes could do with simplifying – the Cock’s recent Hotel Sorrento showed how multiple sets can co-exist even in a space as small as this – but the cricket match is wittily and imaginatively staged.
Bond’s text, which simmers on and on with repressed aggression, is as demanding as anything he wrote. The pack of listless young men, food fit for powder in slightly earlier generations when the insatiable world war machinery would have chewed them up, are only a stone’s throw away from the mob who kill a baby in Saved.
Reproductions of Constable’s Haywain look down from the walls onto a rural scene far less idyllic. This is territory not far from Rudkin’s Afore Night Comes or, a step further, Straw Dogs. The bating of the old man is increasingly unsettling, although the violence when it finally arrives is unseen.
The Cock Tavern’s Bond season is shaping up extremely well and the cumulative effect of the series must surely only add to its strengths. Anyone serious about English Theatre of the last half century should think twice about missing the remaining productions.