For those who vividly recall the 1980s, Alan Bleasdale’s BBC drama series, “Boys from the Black Stuff”, resonates as an incisive commentary on Thatcher’s Britain. It was an era wherein the moniker “working class” seemed almost satirical, given the alarming unemployment rates.
Bleasdale’s potent catchphrases, “Gizza Job” and “I can do that”, beautifully encapsulated the profound desperation felt by many, especially our central character, Yosser Hughes in his desperate quest for employment, and is etched in the collective memory of a generation.
Even though The Royal Court, since its 2006 renaissance, has long coveted a stage rendition of the five part BBC television drama, it took the collaborative efforts of director Kate Wasserberg and writer James Graham to convince the sceptical Bleasdale.
But how gratifying it is that they succeeded to bring about a triumphant transformation of the TV classic to a theatrical tour de force!
Actor Barry Sloan (above), renowned for his transatlantic TV exploits, donned the heavy mantle of Yosser with aplomb. Though perhaps his uncanny resemblance to the legendary Bernard Hill did play a part in his casting, it was his Liverpudlian roots that truly infused authenticity and palpable fervour into his portrayal.
A delightful nod to the original comes in the form of Royal Court regular, Andrew Schofield (right), who, having graced the TV series as a fresh-faced young constable, now returns in the sagely role of George, offering a performance brimming with kindness and depth.
Wasserberg’s astute direction ensures that the ensemble cast elevates Graham’s screenplay to its deserving stature, echoing Bleasdale’s quintessential tone. The narrative unfolds with a palpable intensity, arresting the audience’s attention.
A commendation must be made for the ingenious choreography of the fight sequences, and the slow-motion depiction by stellar actor George Caple, of Snowy Malone’s tragic descent to his death from a balcony, was both visceral and artful.
Yet, amidst the raw power, restraint was exercised impeccably. The repetition of “gizza job” was masterfully balanced, preventing it from veering into cliché territory. And the culmination, with Hughes’ almost nonchalant “I can do that”, just before the final curtain, was a stroke of sheer brilliance.
“Boys from the Black Stuff” graces The Royal Court until October 28th. In this critic’s eyes, it’s not just a play; it’s an event, a historical echo, a rhapsody of emotions.
And it deserves nothing short of Five Hairy Photographer Stars. Attend, for it truly is a theatrical spectacle not to be missed.