After October at Finborough TheatreCultureTheatre
West London’s tiny Finborough Theatre has built up quite a reputation for reviving neglected works. And the latest, directed by Oscar Toeman, is Rodney Ackland’s After October. A tribute to theatre and his most autobiographical play, it returns to London for the first time since its premiere.
The action unfolds in a shabby basement flat in bohemian Hampstead in 1936. Aspiring playwright Clive Monkhams sits hunched over his typewriter surrounded by the symbols of a struggling artist: books, half empty tea cups, cigarettes and the inevitable screwed up and discarded earlier drafts. As Clive, Adam Buchanan is captivating and very funny, delivering Ackland’s wittiest lines with great comic timing. He’s also a fine physical performer: as his character grows increasingly frustrated with the neverending stream of interruptions, his frantic attempts to ignore them are hilarious to watch.
Undoubtedly taking inspiration from Ackland’s own struggles to make a name for himself, the story shows how intense the highs and lows of a writer’s life can be. But he’s also self aware enough to lampoon the pretentiousness of the artist – desperate to be admired, convinced of his own genius, and unable to read a negative review without calling the author to explain why his work is in fact profound, if only he were clever enough to see it.
As the first night of Clive’s play approaches, his family and friends arrive, each with their own troubles. While Ackland presents us with a fascinating portrait of a well heeled but impoverished family, these secondary stories are in themselves superficial rather than particularly interesting or moving. The love story between Frances and Clive never really convinces, and it’s hard to see what the younger sister sees in the odious Alec. The exception is Mrs Bately (Jodie Kidd), who matches Buchanan’s comic delivery with ease. As well as providing laughs, the housekeeper with a penchant for “adult” entertainment also offers a glimpse into a whole other world away from the others’ entitled one.
After October is at Finborough Theatre from 22nd November until 22nd December 2016, for further information or to book visit here.