A touch of glamour comes to Sloane Square at the moment in David Eldridge’s new play In Basildon. Well maybe not glamour but certainly a lively and entertaining piece of writing. Romford boy Eldridge has penned a piece about love, loss, inheritance, greed, money and mortality. The play is set in the living room of Len’s house in Basildon as he is slowly slipping from this world. Around him are friends and family, including his sisters Maureen and Doreen and his best mate Ken. I’ve never seen the Royal Court transformed into a “theatre in the round” space before. It works extremely well having us all seated around the room and provides a more intimate and involved feeling to the play.
After his Lens death attention turns to his will and it is here we see the fractures that finances can bring to family members. Be they close or whether they hate each others guts. Eldridge’s play touches on numerous emotions and thoughts, with wit and tenderness.
Despite Eldridge tipping his hat to a few stereotypes and the sense of humour that is part of Essex, he provides his characters with depth and intelligence. I loved the scene where rich boyfriend Tom is confronted by the hard facts of people who graft and have a sense of pride. As opposed to his poncy liberalism. Those that know me, know I bemoan the fact that theatre seems to have an aversion to portraying the right of centre political view. In the unlikely event they do portray it, usually it is to mock it or say how bad it is. Here I find liberalism confronted with heart and pragmatism, by right wing politics, something I never thought I’d see on the stage of the Royal Court!
The cast give excellent performances. I’m a bit of a snob I’ll admit (well I am from Kent you know) but my heart grew to love them, and understand the reason they love their town and county. The play is also exceedingly funny, and I’m sure there were plenty of “in jokes” that people from Basildon and Essex got that I didn’t.
I also found it a pleasure to watch as it was so well structured and written. I’ve long admired David Eldridge’s work and his writings on plays and theatre. I was also able to hear him in person last year at this event speak about playwriting. Here we have a play that is crafted. It has tension, humour, and drama. Each act builds and it’s nice to have a “cliffhanger” to ponder on during the interval. I’ve mentioned before my admiration for writers that craft their work, and Eldridge is certainly in this school of playwriting. The final act is especially touching. I’m sure they’ll be some that find it idiosyncratic or maybe even anti climatic, for me though I felt it provided a nice change of pace to the riotous act before and helped cement the more serious aspects of the play.
I left the theatre with a spring in my step and I really suggest you take some time to go and see it. It’s a brilliant piece of writing, performed superbly.
STARS : * * * * *