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Silver Thread presents

 

Progress

 

Lawrence Sheldon as Mark; Amy Dawson as Ange

Photo by Tina Atkin

 

By Doug Lucie

 

Directed by Stephen Glover

 

Union Theatre

 

9 January – 6 February 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A review by James Fritz for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Doug Lucie’s play Progress has not been performed since 1986, a statistic that becomes difficult to understand upon leaving Silver Thread’s exceptional revival. Lucie’s well crafted and black as Bovril comedy centres on the complicated sex lives of a group of thirty-something liberals in 1983 London, and in doing so executes a stinging attack on the hidden immorality of the middle classes. The seemingly thoughtful Will hosts an over-sexed men’s self help group in his living room to win back the affections of his hardboiled feminist wife Ronee. Ronee, meanwhile, is embarking upon an affair with a woman with whom her and Will once had a threesome. When they open their house as a shelter for the young and battered Ange, hiding from her brutal husband Lenny, events unfold that allow Lucie to question the true validity of a liberalist attitude and examine the nature of sexism in all its forms.

Despite being twenty-six years old, Progress feels far from dated. Director Stephen Glover and his able team of designers have chosen to make this a period production, setting the play in the year it was written and meticulously recreating the feel of the early eighties. The level of detail should be applauded, everything from the perfect costumes down to a set of horrible Pyrex teacups adding an authenticity to this world that is often impossible to achieve within the usual budgetary constraints of fringe productions. Glover allows the text to play out in its own context and it works a charm, still managing to pack a disconcertingly current punch.

If Progress’ success lies partly in its attention to detail, however, the impeccable cast deserve as much credit as anyone. The evening sees a succession of colourful characters paraded through Ronee and Will’s front door, each of them more well-observed and exceptionally crafted than the last. From sleazebag lodger Mark to bullying mechanic Lenny, the naïve and working-class Ange to the lonely and pompous Martin, what stands out is just how real these people are; it is a rarity to see casting as flawless as this on any stage. With such a strong ensemble it seems unfair to pick any standouts, but special mention must go to Shaun Stone’s straightforward Bruce for giving a hilarious and heartbreaking turn that is as carefully measured a performance as you are ever likely to see.

 

 

 

Martin Blakelock as Lenny

Photo by Tina Atkin

 

 


As the action unfolds towards its explosive climax, the true force of Lucie’s attack on the middle classes is felt. Will and Ronee believe themselves to be fabulously liberal, and yet they treat the good natured and vulnerable Ange like a skivvy without even realising. What’s worse, her background means she doesn’t seem to mind. When this servility is almost imperceptibly manipulated into something seedier, Lucie is able to draw an unflattering comparison between Ange’s sinister, lower class husband and the questionable sexual politics of the bourgeoisie, highlighting how their pseudo-intellectualism is nothing more than an effective smokescreen for flagrant immorality.

 

 

 

Victoria Strachan as Ronee

Photo by Tina Atkin

 

 

Altogether this is a startling production, and one that deserves to be seen by a much wider audience. All at Silver Thread deserve credit for unearthing Lucie’s cracking play and giving it a revival that is well-judged, entertaining and deeply provocative. What is ultimately most shocking is how relevant these themes of deep-set sexism and classism still seem and, were it not for the excess of shoulder pads and high wasted jeans, one feels that these abhorrent characters could easily have been plucked from the present day. Progress indeed.

 

 

 

Richard Crawley as Will

Photo by Tina Atkin

 

 

Box Office: 020 7261 9876

www.uniontheatre.biz

Union Theatre
204 Union St. SE1 0LX

 

 

 

 

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