The Donmar Warehouse stage is transformed into a lovingly detailed farm cottage, complete with wood-burning stove and whistling kettle. Above the beamed ceiling, a projection shows us the undulating Yorkshire Dales beyond.
Farm labourer George (Ben Batt) is about to change out of his overalls and have his tea when a visitor arrives. Thespian John (Jonathan Bailey) looks immediately out of place with his cut-glass accent and sharp bomber jacket. Commendable performances from both lead actors mean we see the intensity of the contrast without any crude cariacture.
Over the course of a brief but beguiling hour and 45 mins of stage time we discover how these two very different men are connected and constrained by their values and expectations.
It’s the 1960s, but it George’s rural life could be the 1860s as he tends to the cows, eats tea cooked by his doting mother and dodges marrying kindly Doreen, the only eligible woman for miles and miles. But everything changes when he gets involved with a York Theatre production of the Mystery Plays.
Initially, against this rustic backdrop, the play’s assistant director John seems suave and worldly. But as he is dazzled by the bucolic simplicity of both the surrounding, we see the sparks between the Northern farm labourer and the luvvie Londoner.
It’s George who takes the lead, with an understated self-confidence. Their love story unfolds with tenderness and warmth, delving deeply into class, sex, religion and identity without any heavy-handed lectures or moral hot takes.
At its core, The York Realist is a story about the ruptures in English existence - the same divisions in class, politics and culture still shape our nation now. But in the romance between George and John these abstract ideas of difference shine with life and love. The result is at once gentle and deeply moving.
|What||The York Realist, Donmar Warehouse review|
|Where||Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, London, WC2H 9LX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
08 Feb 18 – 24 Mar 18, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Price||£10 - £38|
|Website||Click here to book now|