I'm with Vanessa. Left at the interval feeling patronized. I'm from the area in question. Such laboured dialogue - overstuffed with local research and recognition gags (yes, Jeremy Clarkson gets a predictable mention. Needs a script overhaul by someone with Ayckbourn's know how. - Job
05 Apr 12
Fantastic. I am white working class(nearly middle class-cos I got myself an ology). Living in Romford, teaching in Rainham. Nothing about this play is condescending, it just shows the reality of life in essex right down to the pickled onions and wallies. It is strange that its being performed in Sloane Square, but if you think that this is a play about laughing at the working classes then you probably don't get the jokes. - Claire Blakemore
31 Mar 12
Left after the first half - completely wrong accents, wrong facts and history. I've seen better school plays - the attempts at humour were juvenile at best e.g.the vicar falling down drunk. The actors seemed bored and unconvinced by the poor script. - Vanessa
26 Mar 12
My train to London goes through Basildon - cue jokes about this being the best way to see this unattractive new town, original home of the stereotypical white van man and Essex girls in white stilletos which has so afflicted perceptions of the rest of the county. David Eldridge has a more empathetic view of the residents, seen here through the microcosm of a family riven by ancient feuds and squabbling over the promise of bequests from a will. It's like a Mike Leigh play but without the feeling that we are supposed to feel a superior scorn for the characters. In fact the least sympathetic character here might be the idiotic boyfriend whose liberal middle class gulit probably reflects that of a large part of the Royal Court audience. Although he doesn't patronise his characters, Eldridge doesn't sugar coat their casual bigotry, venomous hatred and barely restrained violence towards almost anyone, or their refusal to move on from strict Thatcherite views of getting on through hard work and a hatred for the welfare state (in practice that never stood up to the dole culture). Eldridge's gift for dialogue is superb and frequently very funny, especially if you recognise all the local references. Although you may not care much for these people the play makes you very keen to find out the contents of the will and the reason for the vendetta between the two sisters (Doreen and Maureen!) even if the final act flashback is disappointing after such excellence in the first two acts. The cast are exceptional, although it was possible to spot which accents were authentic, with Peter Wight superb as Ken, the dead man's best friend, who despite his puffed up pomposity proves to be every bit the loyal friend he purports to be. He also has the funniest moment when he leads the singing of I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles over his friend's dead body, even whilst protesting he's a Spurs fan. I was lucky enough to have a seat in the temporary circle but I suspect that a large proportion of the audience couldn't see much of what was going on which is a shame because In Basildon is a very funny and truthful account of a families' life in overspill Essex. - David Baxter
23 Mar 12
As the audience take their seats, Len is on his deathbed, his sister Doreen watching over him as nephew Barry and best mate Ken look on anxiously. Then sister Maureen arrives (she and Doreen haven’t spoken in 20 years) and so the tangled, complicated world of this warring family from Essex is brought to life and its compelling stuff. Add to the mix, the sisters’ children with their anything but straight forward relationships, Len’s “best friend” Ken, neighbour Pam and a vicar with a taste for the whisky and thanks to Eldridge’s brilliant writing and intelligent observation and Dominic Cooke’s superb direction, we have a first rate modern day family drama about British working class life.
The play may be set “In Basildon” but with its themes covering family rancour, grudges, politics, infertility, education and class, it will I’m sure resonate with many of us all over the country.
The final scene, taking us back to 1992, seeks to explain how the sisters come to hate each other. After the incredible intensity of the earlier scenes, it feels a bit clunky and the play loses momentum; I wonder if this could have been better integrated? Still, this is a minor quibble. All of the actors are excellent and all deserve great credit, each delivering strong and totally believable performances. Linda Bassett and Ruth Sheen as the estranged sisters are utterly vile towards each other. There are some touching and funny moments too, especially from Peter Wight’s Ken and Wendy Nottingham’s Pam.
The Royal Court has been redesigned for this production with the audience sitting opposite each other on either side of the stage. This doesn’t entirely work - half of the audience can’t see Len as he lies on his death bed, but most of the action can be seen by everyone.
This is one of the best new plays I’ve seen in years and one I shall definitely see again. It deserves a West End transfer.
- Paul Wallis
21 Mar 12
On the blob, superb! - coral
19 Mar 12
I thought the play was excellently acted. And like Gareth James, the first reviewer, thought this was a far better play than Knot of the Heart, which I thought shallow contrived and just not very good. I thought the first act was strong and moved well, but the second act far less so. At times thematic, veering away from the play's central focus, it could have been shortened by 20 minutes at least without any loss of impact. Having said that, a very entertaining play. - Roger Goldsmith
16 Mar 12
It’s hard to believe that this excellent new play comes from the same pen as my 2011 Turkey of the Year, Knot of the Heart! This uber-realistic and authentic piece is a huge contrast with the other’s implausibility. As playwright David Eldridge hails from the area in which it is set, I suspect this time he’s writing from experience – and it shows.
Len is dying of prostate cancer and we’re in the living room of his home (in Basildon, obviously) where a bedside vigil is in progress – sister Doreen (who lives with Len) & her son Barry (for whom Len was a father figure) and Len’s best mate Ken; neighbour Pam is on tea duty. We’re soon joined by estranged sister Maureen who won’t talk to her sister (and vice versa) directly. The family feud is revealed but not understood. Doreen is further upset when it becomes obvious that Ken knows more about Len’s wishes than she does.
We move on to the wake, joined by Barry’s wife Jackie and Maureen’s daughter Shelley & her boyfriend. Shelley is the one member of the family who escaped to university. She became a teacher and returned to the East End where the family originated and where she now lives with boyfriend Tom, who’s own escape was in the opposite direction from his investment banker dad. The family feud is further fueled by the reading of a letter from Len laying out the highlights of his will, but we still don’t understand its origin. We finally flash back 18 years where the circumstances of the rift are at last revealed.
This is a very believable family story, but the play has at least two more layers. It shows the late 20th century exodus from the East End via inner Essex towns like Romford to places like Basildon even further away. We glimpse the reasons for the moves and attitudes that accompanied them. Furthermore, it explores how the political changes of the last 30 years have impacted these particular working class families. I lived and worked in Essex for 18 years during this period and it oozes authenticity. The family story also resonates with me!
The theatre has been reconfigured for Dominic Cooke’s pitch perfect production, with the audience on two sides and two levels. Though this does provide a bit of a bear pit for the family exchanges (well, from where I was sitting anyway), I’m not sure it was worth the trouble and expense.
The performances are uniformly excellent. Linda Bassett and Ruth Sheen are both terrific as the sisters, both in estrangement and closeness. Lee Ross brilliantly conveys the complex set of emotions Barry experiences – living with the family feud, his hinted financial troubles and Jackie’s more overt desperation for her own home and child (superbly played by Debbie Chasen). Peter Wight’s conveys that special relationship of ‘the best mate’ with a nice touch of old man letch.
It owes something to Mike Leigh (and there are a couple of Leigh regulars in the cast and a reference to his most famous play), but it’s an original, well structured and deeply rewarding play which will undoubtedly feature in the list of 2012′s best and another must-see at the Royal Court. - Gareth James
28 Feb 12
Left at the interval. Something wrong about people living near Chanel and Cartier shops laughing at the working classes. Bit like being at a zoo. Not that funny or interesting. Avoid. - James
26 Feb 12
It's brave when playwrights tackle class and money, because you are always going to get accused of stereotyping people. Does Eldridge stereotype public school liberals with Max Bennett's fawning know-it-all character? Does Eldridge stereotype the Essex working class by depicting a right wing family who care about graft and money? Does he stereotype vicars by showing one getting sloshed? He certainly raises the stakes by calling this "In Basildon," as he is asking us to generalise from his depiction here of this one Basildon family to draw conclusions about other Basildon families. And I say, how brave and fair enough. Even within this one family, there are many different points of view about how to live life, acquire money, fall in love, so it's not as if he's saying all working class people are the same. What he is saying is more universal than any of this, that money tends to destroy blood ties, and to be frank, that's true regardless of class, as Max Bennett's posh character has fallen out with his father, in much the same way as Basildon sisters Maureen and Doreen fall out here. So, essentially Eldridge writes about the universal from the local Essex context he is so familiar with. And very convincing it is too. All the actors here are very very good, offering immensely convincing authentic feeling performances. This has the feel of a Mike Leigh production where all the actors know their characters inside out. Perhaps Max Bennett's toff and Christian Dixon's vicar are slightly more comic characters than the others, but they work well, as they leaven the weight of what is essentially a serious drama about money destroying a family. Linda Bassett's miserable Doreen, Ruth Sheen's grudge-wielding Maureen, Ken Wight's good egg, Wendy Nottingham's invisible woman, Lee Ross's wide boy Barry, Jade William's class conflicted Shelley, all these are acting performance gems. And credit to Max Bennett, he really plays the funniest moments of the play to a tee, when his public school lefty goes off on one! :) - steveatplays
25 Feb 12
Working class pornography and utterly unrepresentative, riddled with stereotypes and with very little fresh or innovative to say. Cheap gags inviting us to laugh at and condescend to the white working classes. Uncomfortably smug. Avoid. - Jamie McMahon
23 Feb 12
Almost brilliant. Beautifully written and acted. But, final scene is worthless and some bits, like the vicar getting drunk, were a little cheap which was a shame because it detracted from the absolute realism of the piece -sometimes forgot I was even watching a play! Something very exciting is definitely going on here. - Angus
23 Feb 12
It's not authentic at all. The middle class view of the working class. And dull. - Sidney Rayne
23 Feb 12
the actors are good but the play is dull. there's no reason to care about the main characters who are pretty much set in their hatred of each other. the stupid boyfriend character isn't really believable. it might be authentic but this is like a long dreary monday evening in basildon. - fred
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