**** An overdue reminder of a neglected writer
David Rudkin is a playwright respected in theory but unfashionable on the stage; this revival reminds us of his disturbing power.
This, Rudkin's first stage play, originally brought him to wider attention in 1962. Characteristically, it shows a world in which ordinary people, speaking in often defiantly unpolished language, inhabit the same space as ancient forces and impulses. In this case the "here and now" folk are fruit-pickers in the West Midlands, conversing in a babel of dialects and forming a shifting pattern of groupings amongst themselves as they try to fill 600 boxes of pears during the single day on which the play is set. By the end of the action, one "outsider" has been eviscerated, another is set to return to a mental institution, and a third left in little doubt that , one way or another, he will not last the full three weeks in the job.
What binds the men, and what separates them, are rituals ancient and modern; this being Rudkin, however, nothing is spelt out fully. We absorb the dark currents through Rufus Norris's unfussy production on Ian MacNeil's remarkable in-the-round set in which the entire theatre is hung with light bulbs standing for the orchardful of pears. Rudkin is not hard to watch, but he does demand both thought and feeling in often uncomfortable directions.
Written for divento.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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