WhatsOnStage Logo

The York Realist

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
WhatsOnStage logo
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 accents.

- Aline Waites


Tagged in this Story