'The March on Russia' review or 'A rich mine of emotion.'

The March on Russia, David Storey
Orange Tree Theatre, 11th September 2017
Written for Time Out

Authenticity is in short supply these days but it comes naturally to Up in Arms theatre company, led by the talented playwright Barney Norris. Their productions are infused with compassion and character anthis moving revival of David Storey’s 1989 play, 'The March on Russia', is no exception. It’s a play about coming home again; about generations divided, a family and country in flux, the yearning for progress and the frightening certainty of history repeating itself.
It’s Mr and Mrs Passmore’s sixtieth wedding anniversary and their children have instinctively returned home to Yorkshire (not far from the mining pits) to celebrate. It takes roughly five seconds for the old dynamics to set in and the elder Passmores are soon at each other’s throats, sisters Wendy and Eileen are attacking each other’s life choices and son Colin is quietly despairing in the corner.
Director Alice Hamilton has coaxed out some rich and instinctive performances, played out in the gloomy intimacy of James Perkins’s cramped and fire-lit home. Colin Tierney is suitably brooding as the adrift and academic son, Connie Walker’s ‘stay at home mum’ has a fuzzy warmth about her and Sarah Belcher, as daughter and politician Wendy, has a restless intelligence that constantly threatens to sprout legs and leave.
Ian Gelder and Sue Wallace captivate as an ageing couple caught in the same old patterns, utterly dependent on each other yet – somehow – isolated and alone. Their banter is bang-on and brilliantly funny (‘I’m not bickering. He is!’) but the flashes of gratitude and regret pierce deeply. And whilst this is a play about family above all, national politics lurk in the shadows. It all sounds horribly familiar when Mrs Passmore despairs: ‘I’ve never known such a rubbish generation.’ It’s a hard sentiment to swallow and yet these characters have been written with such compassion and intelligence that our eyes stay on them, even as they exit the stage.


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