Tag Archives: Shane Richie

Rice and Cheese

THE ENTERTAINER

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Monday 7th October, 2019

 

Archie Rice, washed-up, old-school, tax-dodging comic treats his audiences with scorn, but they’re not lapping it up anymore.  Meanwhile, at home, there’s a son away in a war, and Archie’s second wife is feeling the strain.  Daughter Jean is reaching her limits – she’s not going to put up with the old ways for much longer, while grandpa Billy Rice rants about immigrants and gives rise to friction… Archie’s home life is no picnic either.

Director Sean O’Connor brings John Osborne’s play forward in time from the Suez Crisis to the time of the Falklands Conflict.  But for all the pop music of the era and the references to Shake & Vac and Rising Damp, this is very much a play for today.  The bigoted, anti-immigrant attitudes expressed by old Billy, laughable in an Alf Garnett kind of way, have resurfaced in today’s Britain – and so Billy (played with conviction and credibility by Pip Donaghy) isn’t funny but alarming.  He’s a Sun reader, so what can you expect?  Headlines from that ‘newspaper’ are projected across the scene, and the anti-Argentine rhetoric of then is strikingly similar to today’s bile levelled against the EU, with whom we are not even at war.

Diana Vickers is a steadying presence as young Jean, whose boyfriend troubles bring her back to the family flat.  Jean becomes the ‘angry young woman’ of the piece, letting rip in a tirade that is a long time coming, while Alice Osmanski witters and frets effectively as Archie’s second wife Phoebe.  Christopher Bonwell has some strong moments as young Frank but of course the show belongs to the star.

Shane Richie is on excellent form as Archie Rice, from his off-colour, sexist jokes, to his Max Wall-esque clowning, and his cheesy cabaret singing.  Richie not only performs Archie’s act, he acts his decline – Don’t go expecting an evening of comedy!  This is heavy duty stuff, about the dynamics of this dysfunctional family at a time of political and economic uncertainty; it’s about personal failure, and also the human condition.  “I’m dead behind the eyes,” Richie claims acidly, before accusing all of us of being in the same state.  It’s a bitter moment in a bitter play.

The drama takes place on a conventional box set, but it’s kept back, behind a false proscenium arch, physically keeping the characters at a distance from us, the edges and tops of the flats clearly in view.  We are not part of the scene, not part of the family, but held at bay so we can examine them from afar.  Osborne’s scathing writing holds these people up, not for our admiration or sympathy, but for our ridicule and disparagement.  Characters step forward, speaking their opinions in broad asides, again reminding us of the artifice of the production.

It’s a challenging piece but as a statement on the country before its post-Brexit decline, it couldn’t be more on the money.  Fortunately for us, Shane Richie is more of an entertainer than poor Archie Rice could ever hope to be, giving a masterful performance with genuine star quality.

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Joker! Shane Richie as Archie Rice


Perfect Tense

THE PERFECT MURDER

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Wednesday 30th March, 2016

 

This production gets a new lease of life in a new tour starring EastEnders double act, Kat and Alfie Moon – Jessie Wallace and Shane Richie.  They certainly bring in the crowds.

Adapted by Shaun McKenna from the Peter James novel, this is a comedy thriller about sarcastic sod Victor Smiley (even his name is sarcastic) plotting to get rid of his Mrs and run off with his prostitute girlfriend and a hefty haul of insurance money.  Victor is an aficionado of televised murder mysteries and thinks he’s got it taped.  What he doesn’t know is that his trouble and strife has plots of her own, teaming up with her bit on the side, Don… Meanwhile, fresh out of the box Detective Constable Roy Grace smells a rat…

Richie and Wallace undoubtedly have chemistry.  Away from Walford, to somewhere more middle class near Brighton, the accents have softened but their embittered, barbed dialogue sparks between them – they clearly enjoy working with each other.  At first, we feel sympathy for poor neglected Joan (Wallace, bringing brittle feistiness and steely vulnerability to the role) until we learn what she’s up to too.  Richie’s characterisation gives us a detestable man – one we enjoy disliking.  The pair play their scenes together like virtuoso duets.  Wallace’s hysteria is especially hilarious while Richie’s ruthlessness becomes rather repellent.

Simona Armstrong is also great fun as Kamila, the prostitute with psychic flashes, while Benjamin Wilkin’s detective is the innocent of the bunch, the straight man amid these heightened characters.  Stephen Fletcher is an energetic Don, although his dialogue – all mockney rhyming slang and out-of-date references – is rather odd.

The plot works through its machinations, giving us moments of tension and dramatic irony along with moments of shock and even spookiness.  Throughout runs a rich vein of rather dark humour – Director Ian Talbot brings the humour to the fore and there are some hilarious moments of physical comedy.  Michael Holt’s split set works well to keep the action flowing, cutting from one place to another without the delay of transitions, so that the pace and tension are maintained.  Mark Howett’s lighting design helps to crank up that tension.

It’s a rather straightforward, theatrically conventional piece but it works extremely well to provide an evening of cracking, satisfying entertainment.  A definite crowd-pleaser.

The Perfect Murder UK Tour - Shane Richie as Victor Smiley and Jessie Wallace as Joan Smiley - credit Honeybunn Photography (2)

Bickering and banter: Jessie Wallace and Shane Richie as the Smileys. (Photo: Honeybunn Photography)