You probably know Get Carter as the title of the film which propelled Michael Caine towards international stardom. Jonathan Holloway's play is an adaptation of Ted Lewis's 1970 novel rather than a reworking of the screenplay.
With its brilliantly claustrophobic, minimally-furnished and propped box set and a cast of six to take on two dozen characters, this is a typical Red Shift production. It is designed to make you think.
True, it's violent - as much so as any Jacobean revenge tragedy (to which it has a certain resemblance). And there's not a really pleasant person around (but that's often the case in real life let alone in populist crime fiction), so we don't really care about these squalid little individuals caught in a mesh of illicit activities when they get their well-deserved comeuppance. Yet it is gripping and we are inevitably drawn into the unfolding drama. That's good theatre, of course. Very good theatre.
As petty crook Jack Carter begins to unravel the circumstances of his brother Frank's death, the sticky web of gambling clubs, porno films, protection rackets, prostitution, drugs and a knife and gun culture becomes ever more enveloping.
Holloway has stylised much of the violence, a convention which always works better in a playhouse than the ultra-realistic blood and guts cinema tradition. Designer Neil Irish has a neat way with Seventies fashion (Day-Glo plastics, miniskirts, sharp three-piece suits and roll-neck sweaters) as indeed does Jon Nicholls with the popular music of the era.
Kieron Jecchinis plays the majority of the brighter, leading light villains, with Daniel Copeland taking on most of the lesser fry. The culture of the class and era presented to us didn't assign much of a positive role to women, who are there to be used and are therefore vulnerable. Sally Orrock and Angela Ward make us understand why getting out and making an individual life is not a realistic option.
Frank Carter is, of course, dead by the time his brother begins his grisly crusade. Tim Weekes voices him to suggest a soft man who was always going to be a loser and aptly enough plays a number of by-standing characters. And Jack Lord flays into his avenging mission with enough style to make Jack Carter completely credible.
You don't see this strange world and its time through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. But you do see it presented with almost clinical clarity.
- Anne Morley-Priestman (reviewed at King's Lynn Arts Centre)