Brighton Rock. Pink in colour, sickly sweet in taste and jam packed with the nostalgia of childhood beach holidays. Though this particular stick of rock turns sour after Brighton is taken over by Pinky and his men. This atmospheric and eerie play, based on the book by Graham Greene is submerged in murder, violence and threat, as teenagers rule the seaside town.
Pinky is seventeen years old, and has taken over from the Brighton gang. He needs to step up into a world he is unfamiliar with, filling the boots of his deceased leader. After a covert murder spills into the public eye, he frantically tries to cover his tracks, getting more and more desperate as he reverts to fighting fire with fire. He begins to shrink in his suit, looking more child-like as he scrambles to keep people from spilling the beans, or turning “milky” as he says. Jacob James Beswick is by far the stand out star in this production. His hands-in-pocket swagger intimidated as he strutted about the stage, oozing a facade of confidence that Beswick expertly lets crumble in front of your eyes. He is intense and frightening, to both the audience and Rose, who he has clutched in his grasp.
Grace, played by Sarah Middleton, quickly falls for Pinky, but despite him being the apple of her eye, Pinky’s priorities were elsewhere. Her innocence and and naivety masked her love, and I spent the first section of the play thinking of her as young and dumb, rather than as infatuated, as I later realised she was. The pair are fuelled by hatred, not love, and are forced to stay together due to the legalities of Pinky’s murderous habit. The theme of religion brings them closer, but binds them instead of bonding them.
Ida, the narrator of sorts, chases Pinky and his doings throughout, but always seems to be a few steps behind and is constantly playing catch up. Her character clarifies facts, but can feel unnecessary at times. Gloria Onitiri perfectly fits Ida’s intimidating and fearless character, impressing as she relentlessly fights for Rose’s safety. She also gets the occasional chance to showcase her incredible singing voice, a wonderful an unexpected treat for the audience.
The ensemble of nine worked incredibly hard to cover all the smaller roles of gang members and waitresses, giving the illusion the cast was bigger than it was. Two musicians hidden on stage accompanied them creating atmosphere with appropriate sound effects and setting scenes with music and providing a backing track for transitions.
Sara Perks’ two tier set is drab and rusty, perfect for showing the darker side of the stereotypically colourful seaside town. It suits all the settings, of the underground gangster den, bars, hotels and of course, the famous Brighton Pier. The muted and murky pallette matches the rust that has infected the metal pier and mirrors the water that floats below.
The scenes were short, giving the production a good pace. They used a range of interesting transitions, of which some worked better than others. However each was incredibly efficient and made the most of Graham Greene’s choppy scene changes. I felt the adaptation left some points a little fuzzy, it took me and my housemate a while to suss who was who in the first section of the play, and others, such as the racecourse scene, a little overemphasised.
Unfortunately, from most of the cast there was a lack of emotion and I didn’t connect with many of them, leaving me feeling a little flat. The production was still enjoyable as it was so energetic and edgy with some smaller elements really shining. Perhaps too much focus was placed on the aesthetic and not enough on the development of characterisation.