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A Patriot for Me

 

by John Osborne

 

Directed by David Harris

Choreography: Ian Brener,

Musical Director: Jonathan Barker

Lighting designer: Daniel Large

Fight Director: Jonathan Jaynes

Designer: Belle Mundi.

 

NEW PLAYERS THEATRE

 

9 October – 1 November 2008

 

 

 

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A review by Marion Drew for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

A Patriot For Me is based on the factual story of a careerist-soldier, Alfred Redl, an ambitious soldier of outstanding promise in the decadent and decaying society of turn-of-the-century Austria, but also Jewish and a homosexual. The latter was his greatest obstacle to success, and the play’s central concern is with Redl’s journey of self-discovery. Redl, with everything going for him, is compromised in many ways by his newly realised sexual freedom, among other things, feeling compelled by the Russian army to spy on his beloved country and countrymen. Written in 1965, A Patriot For Me premiered in London in the same year, was immediately condemned by the Lord Chamberlain and was forced to play on the ‘club’ scene, where it became an enormous hit. 


Mark Crook, in the leading role, does capture for us the sense of the emotional trajectory of a man progressing from self denial and an inability to come out of the closet, to becoming given over to pleasure and luxury, and prepared, in the pursuit of this, to succumb to blackmail. Through a range of often brutal, but sometimes surprisingly tender sexual encounters, the moral and spiritual disintegration of Redl becomes apparent, even though there are some slow moments in the acting. The female cast manages to shine in a largely male assembly, and there are lovely cameo performances from Claire Bond as the Countess Sophia Delyanoff, one of the many people who were used and abused by Redl in his rise through the military ranks, and Lorraine Arnold as Hilde, a compassionate whore. Also entertaining were John Sears as the ‘hostess’ Baron Von Epp in the famous  camp ball scene, and Jonathan Gabb as Paul
Despite its size and having to work within the constraints of numerous scene changes, the cast give us a good sense of the social and military context, and of the decadent and, to homosexuals at least, hostile social and imperial milieu in which this drama unfolds. Along with the beautiful period set, lovely costumes and low-key understated music, we are successfully carried through this rather wordy play despite some occasionally stiff and self-conscious acting.


In spite of having largely lost its shock value in today’s far more at least superficially tolerant world, the play does, however, still manage to convey a sense of outrage at the way homosexuals were treated, and is a good reminder of just how far Western society has come from the days when not only was homophobia the norm, but homosexuality was illegal.
Nightly at 7.30pm.

 

TICKETS: 20, 15 (concs.) and 12.50 (groups of 10 or more)
Phone: 020 7478 0135 to book tickets (10am -6pm)
Advance sales available over the counter at Soho Theatre on Dean Street from 10am – 6pm and over the counter 2/3hrs prior to performances at the New Players Theatre. A £1.75 booking fee applies per ticket sold via Soho Theatre.
Tickets online at www.newplayerstheatre.com, 24 hours, or from TICKET WEB on 08 444771000 (fees vary)

NEW PLAYERS THEATRE
The Arches, Villiers Street,
LONDON WC2 6NG

 

 

 

 

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