Peaky Blinders meets Romeo and Juliet in the 60s gangster love story Brighton Rock.
Adapted by Graham Greene’s classic novel, it is a story set in the heart of the British seaside town. When a young waitress witnesses a gang’s activity, their enforcer Pinkie is fearful he’ll be found out so tricks her into falling in love with him. When a pleasure-seeking lady Ida grows suspicious about a man she met in Brighton dying, she is convinced it is murder and becomes entangled in their romance to try to get to the truth.
Rose, played by Sarah Middleton is a 16-year-old girl who falls in love with rose-tinted glasses with Brighton gangster Pinkie. Falling for his convincing charm, she becomes delusional and brainwashed by his manipulative character as he psychologically abuses her into believing every word he says. Middleton captures the naivety and vulnerability of the role superbly, and her timid character allows the audience to feel great sympathy for her as we witness her confidence diminish. It’s heartbreaking to watch Rose so beguiled by Pinkie when he cares so little for her.
Jacob James Beswick commands the stage with his flawless performance as dishonourable and malicious criminal Pinkie. Performing the role with strength, Beswick portrays both the suave and cool-headed nature of the role with the contrasting moments of craze excellently. His sociopathic nature seeps through the character more and more as the play progresses.
Gloria Ontiri carries the narrative of the production as the ambiguous detective figure that represents the force of justice. Continually following the story by intrigue, she becomes concerned about Pinkie’s behaviour towards Rose and keeps an eye on the couple. Ontiri’s depiction of the character is both motherly and passionate. Her wise and witty nature is enthralling throughout.
Director Esther Richardson’s staging is clever and slick, using energetic physical theatre she manages to make a dark and simple stage a multitude of locations. The actors play a variety of characters and their transitions are almost like magic as we see them transform at the click of a finger. With live music interjected into the piece, it gives the production a haunting ambience. Although the second half could do with tightening, the play moves with punch and pace.
Designer Sara Perks has cleverly kept the stage monochrome, with hints of colour and light. A particular strength being Ida’s striking crimson and leopard print costume amongst a sea of dark suits and dresses in a black and white world.
Brighton Rock is an innovatively staged production of a gripping story that is created with simplicity and style.
On at the Birmingham Rep until the 14th of April, tickets and information can be found here.
Brighton Rock is co-commissioned by the Lowry for Week 53 from the 22nd to the 26th of May, information can be found here.