'Ruffian on The Stair' and 'Erpingham Camp' review or 'Butlins - but with blood.'

'The Ruffian on the Stair' and 'The Erpingham Camp', Joe Orton
Greenwich Playhouse, Wednesday 20th July
Written for Time Out 

Jack Brackstone-Brown as Wilson in 'The Ruffian on the Stair'

In a beige bedsit, with beige wallpaper and a beige husband, Joyce wiles away the endless hours of her colourless life. Her cheeks are porcelain white but Joyce - or is her name Sarah or Madeleine – has a racy red past. Into this fading life bursts Wilson, a man purportedly looking for a room but in reality seeking answers about his brother's murder.

'The Ruffian on the Stair' is one of Orton's few short plays and its relative brevity means his characteristic cruelty has been sharpened to a fine point. This is encouragingly risky programming from Greenwich playhouse and Chriorando's production gleams with dangerous characters and spikey banter.

Jack Brackstone-Brown, as the leering lodger Wilson, is a Cheshire cat villain with razor claws and his scenes bristle with untapped violence. Unfortunately, the dark atmosphere is slightly too pervasive and some of the brilliant one liners don't gleam as they should.

'Erpingham Camp' is a lighter affair: a camp-site comedy, based on The Bacchae. It's Carry On with an edge and Chiorando's company captures the salacious, silly set pieces well. In the liveliest scene, the Entertainment Officers loses control of his guests to amusingly anarchic effect: two women wage war with their handbags, a chap in a Tarzan suit runs riot and a drunken Tory woozily removes his shorts.

But 'Erpingham' also includes a priest with a penchant for teenagers and a moustached leader with dictatorial tendencies. An enjoyable romp but it's missing the dark undercurrents that flowed so naturally from Orton's pen.


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