The Entertainer at Malvern Theatres: Review

Tickets complimentary to allow me to produce an honest review.

Since its premier in 1957, the Entertainer has become an iconic play. Now set in 1982 with a backdrop of the Falklands war, Archie Rice finds his showbiz career going down the pan. His profession is outdated. His best jokes are no longer considered funny. So where does he go from here? The brand new version of John Osbourne’s The Entertainer is showing at Malvern Theatres until Saturday, 14th September starring Shane Richie as Archie.

About The Entertainer

If I had to describe The Entertainer in one word, I’d choose the word ‘bleak’. Set between a theatre stage and the Rice family’s front room, the tail end of Archie’s career plays out under the scrutiny of his family. While Shane Richie is best known as a loveable rogue, Archie Rice isn’t such a likeable character.

Maybe it was the decor, or the tense atmosphere in the flat. Or perhaps it was the passion of the characters, struggling to get by in the best way they knew how. I can’t put my finger on what did it, but I was transported straight back to an era when everything seemed slightly grey. A time when working class people didn’t have much hope for the future, and politicians didn’t care.

THE ENTERTAINER by John Osbourne ; Directed by Sean O’Connor ; Lighting Design by Tim Mitchell ; Sound Design by Chris James ; Musical Design by Greg Arrowsmith ; Choreography by Emily Holt ; A Curve Theatre & Simon Friend Entertainment Co-production ; Leicester, UK ; 27 August 2019 ; Credit and copyright: Helen Murray

In the Rice household, scraping by means making sure the gin bottle is never empty. Archie is an alcoholic whose self respect is declining with his career. Daughter Jean knows the score, berating him for the way he treats wife Phoebe. Meanwhile, their son is fighting in the Falklands. The play features newspaper headlines and political speeches from the Falklands war. It becomes clear that even if his career, personal life and love of gin hadn’t caught up with Archie, life would still be tough.

The political undercurrent of division runs throughout the play. It’s cleverly portrayed within the family, with clashing careers and opinions. The Entertainer was originally set during the Suez Crisis. This updated version set during the Falklands War retains its sense of a divided Britain. I couldn’t help but wonder whether a new adaptation in 50 years time will be set in 2019.

The cast of The Entertainer

I’m often amazed at the big names that come to Malvern Theatres, and Shane Richie is definitely one of those. Most of us probably know him as Alfie Moon in Eastenders. However, his 40 year career has seen him on stage and in films as well as various television shows.

THE ENTERTAINER by John Osbourne ; Directed by Sean O’Connor ; Lighting Design by Tim Mitchell ; Sound Design by Chris James ; Musical Design by Greg Arrowsmith ; Choreography by Emily Holt ; A Curve Theatre & Simon Friend Entertainment Co-production ; Leicester, UK ; 27 August 2019 ; Credit and copyright: Helen Murray

Archie’s wife Phoebe is played by Sara Crowe, who recently toured with Calendar Girls the Musical. Daughter Jean is played by Diana Vickers who was an X Factor semi-finalist in 2008. Since then, she has been in films and on television as well as taking to the stage for performances in various productions including the Rocky Horror Show.

THE ENTERTAINER by John Osbourne ; Directed by Sean O’Connor ; Lighting Design by Tim Mitchell ; Sound Design by Chris James ; Musical Design by Greg Arrowsmith ; Choreography by Emily Holt ; A Curve Theatre & Simon Friend Entertainment Co-production ; Leicester, UK ; 27 August 2019 ; Credit and copyright: Helen Murray

It’s not often that an updated version of a classic really does the original justice. This time though, Sean O’Connor as director and adaptor has done just that. This thought-provoking production is showing in Malvern until Saturday, 14th September. To book tickets, head to the Malvern Theatres website. For more information on the rest of the tour and to see a lovely interview with Sean O’Connor and Shane Richie, check out The Entertainer website.

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Tickets complimentary to allow me to produce an honest review.

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