Spain's Costa del Sol, aka 'Costa del Crime' is the setting for Richard Harris' latest comedy and in the spotlight so beloved by real-life villains the Kray twins is a pair of apparently genial 'retired' gangsters.
Mickey was the business - a Mr Big equally capable of ruthlessness and generosity, as famed for his lavish parties as his daring heists. Now the affable grandfather is enjoying the fruits of his successful 'career' in his Spanish villa. It's the last word in brash luxury - and state-of-the art security. Recently widowed, he's also acquired a classy new wife. Now his faithful aide Ray and his long-suffering wife Brenda have received a tempting invite, to meet the new missus and mull over old times in the sunshine over a beer.
But trouble's brewing in paradise. The wives are chalk and cheese - posh Francine looks down her nose at our blunt Brenda, who gives as good as she gets. And despite the blokey reminiscences, are things a bit tense between Mickey and Ray? Add an eager young TV researcher, getting background for a documentary on the London underworld of the 1960s and the scene is set for a dark comedy of revelation and counter revelation.
John Alderton's Mickey and George Costigan's Ray quickly establish the pecking order in their relationship and Costigan's sentimental sincerity is a good foil for Alderton's coarse geniality. Alderton more or less succeeds in suppressing his usual sympathetic persona, to give us a credible gang leader, with a streak of ruthlessness.
Things get off to a slow start though and despite director Alan Strachan's pacy production, the first half is all talk and little action on Hayden Griffin's glorious bad-taste set. The wives don't really get their stage time until the much more sparky second half, when the fur flies, the chickens come home to roost - and Harris at last succeeds in building the tension.
Pauline Collins gets her chance to shine and revel in the quick fire, often risqué dialogue (be warned, the Windsor audience gasped and giggled at the 'f' and 'c' words). Her Brenda is a warm no-nonsense portrait of the wife who soldiers on and holds the family together when her man is serving his time. Carol Boyle is gorgeous as incisive, icy Francine and Kate Alderton (yes, it's a family affair!), makes the most of her role as the catalyst who brings matters to a head.
- Judi Herman (reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Windsor)