For George Dillon
was written in 1955 by John Osborne and Anthony Creighton but premiered
in 1958, two years after the former's seminal Look Back In Anger had
already delivered its blistering social broadside to unsuspecting
There are certainly flashes of classic Osborne here in the angry monologues that dot the dialogue of this satire on fifties society, but what most comes across is an insipid sitting-room drama that reflects the stock fare of the provincial repertory from which both aspiring playwrights made their living as actors at the time.
premise is a promising one: an aspiring (i.e. jobless and penniless)
actor is welcomed (to varying degrees) into the bosom of the
comfortably middle-class Elliot family, whose mother sees in him a
spark that reminds her of her son, killed in the Second World War ten
With a line-up that includes precocious daughter, frumpy daughter, cantankerous father, doting mother and doting mother's spinster sister's soft touch for worthless arty types half her age, there's a lot of potential here.
gels though. The cast all work hard, but they give the impression that
they have only just met for their first read-through with no indication
that they have rehearsed beyond this. No character is believable,
neither as individuals nor in their relationships.
This works against the plot and any denouements it may contain, and so fatally exposes the weaknesses and illogicalities already lurking in Osborne and Creighton's script. Added to this is a dreadfuly designed set cluttered with authentic fifties furnishing that gets in everyone's way.
the interloper actor/angry young man George Dillon, Joseph Fiennes has a
certain charm but, by twisting and grimacing like a young Anthony
Perkins, his performance perhaps may be not to everyone's taste.
the other hand, Anne Reid is eminently watchable as the bubbly Mrs
Elliot whose good intentions are consistently stymied by her nearest
and dearest. There are a couple of energetic cameos from Hugh Simon and
Stephen Greif in the guise of politically savvy preacher and street
savvy producer respectively.
be honest, I've only ever sat through a handful of West End plays that
have been truly jaw-dropping "car crashes" of productions. This is not
to say they're bad as such, but you wonder how in heaven's name could a
production team actively conspire to make things as unsuited to a
paying audience as they could possibly be.
Director Peter Gill gets a special award for the double-whammy of 2002's The York Realist and now Epitaph, promising dramas that he has personally gutted, dismembered and left for dead. Baffling, really.
Recommended, nevertheless, if only to experience one of the more eclectic missing links in post-war British theatre.
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- Epitaph for George Dillon - Comedy 2005