Review: Pam Ferris and Toby Jones give performances that touch the soul
There's something about an audio drama that allows you to really get under the skin of the characters you’re listening to in a way that, sometimes, even a stage production fails to do. It’s the intimacy of story-telling unfettered by the physicality of the actors in the roles.
ROYAL LYCEUM, www.lyceum.org.uk
Pam Ferris, still best known for The Darling Buds of May, and Toby Jones, an ever-present on TV these days, star in Angela, the first of the Royal Lyceum's Sound Stage season, but as you listen they are not who you see in your mind's eye, Angela and Ted are fully formed in their own right, any memories of Ma Larkin or Detectorists’ Lance Stater banished forever. The lack of another’s visuals is liberating.
The Word Premiere of Angela, an autobiographical play from Mark Ravenhill, gives an honest and occasionally disturbing glimpse into a working class family life.
The tragedy of Rita Ravenhill, his mother, as she struggles to make sense of her life and losses is visceral. As the action flickers back and forth through the years, fading memories struggle to the surface through Rita's ever increasing distress. Rita prefers to be called Angela. Now 84 and with dementia, she reflects on her journey from feisty, strong-willed young woman to wife and mother, battling depression along the way. Ravenhill weaves aspects of his own life, his dream of taking ballet lessons, throughout.
It's a uniquely touching, almost voyeuristic insight, directed with pace and innate understanding by Polly Thomas.
Ferris brings a kaleidoscope of emotions to Angela, by turns loving, angry, violent yet always unfulfilled. Equally, there's a tenderness to Jones' portrayal of her deeply loving husband that lifts this piece well beyond the average audio drama. As Ted, his vulnerability is heart-breaking as both Ferris and Jones give performances that touch the soul.
They are ably supported by an excellent ensemble including engaging turns from Matti Houghton as the Young Angela and Jackson Laing and Young Mark. There’s also an exquisite sound design by John Scott. Kudos also to Alexandra Faye Braithwaite for an evocative score. Captivating stuff indeed.
A co-production with Pitlochry Festival Theatre, in association with Naked Productions and BBC Radio 3, Angela is available to listen to until Sunday March 28 and 1-2 April, https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/angela