Tag Archives: Alex Lowde

“Jitney” at the Old Vic Theatre

August Wilson’s great play gets a good revival under the directorial guidance of Tinuke Craig. Set in the office of a taxi company (the cars give the play its name) the piece is a close look at a community, full of emotion and drama.

The co-op business is headed by the admirable Becker (Wil Johnson) who is struggling to keep the premises open and about to meet his son who has just been released from prison. Old-time drivers struggle with drink (leading to a sensitive performance from Tony Marshall) or their past, while in conflict with a younger generation. Arguments between the gossiping Turnbo and the aptly named Youngblood are a highlight and make strong scenes for Sule Rimi and Solomon Israel. In all cases, Wilson’s characterisation is impeccable.

Unlike the writing, the performances are uneven. Some scenes feel more rehearsed than others. It’s an odd fault but Johnson – who is outstanding – possesses considerably more confidence than his colleagues which leads to uncomfortable moments. Johnson’s is a performance not to be missed as he portrays his character’s dignity and trauma with considered attention and intense passion. The production sags after Becker and Johnson finally leave the stage.

The play’s 1970s Pittsburgh setting is evoked in costume design and video projections (strong work from Alex Lowde and Ravi Deepres). But the period feel doesn’t always come through in performances – accents are hit and miss and the odd declamatory moment jars.

The production works from firm ground though. There’s an excellent balance between humour and darker moments that shows the writing’s sense of rhythm. And some serious thought-provoking antagonism as younger characters – Becker’s son especially – are told to take responsibility for their lives. Wilson draws us into the characters’ complex lives with consummate skill and Craig’s calm understanding of script’s strengths ensure the revival’s overall success.

Until 9 July 2022


Photo by Manuel Harlan

“One for the Road” and “Victoria Station” at The Print Room

One for the Road and Victoria Station are two short works by Notting Hill local Harold Pinter, and what would have been his neighbourhood theatre, the Print Room, provides a rare chance to see these disturbing, powerful mini-masterpieces together for the first time since their premiere in 1984.

Victoria Station is a Kafkaesque dialogue between a taxi driver and his controller – darkly comic with a sinister twist and only ten minutes long. One for the Road is a violent, sadistic interrogation drama (with a nod to Orwell and its date of composition) that lasts a truly harrowing half-hour.

Keith Dunphy is superb as the taxi controller in the first work – Pinter’s humour is slippery and needs intelligence to pull it off. Kevin Doyle takes centre stage in the second piece, playing the brutal questioner with a spine-chilling wish to be “scrupulous”. Jeff James’s direction retains the intensity of the writing and Alex Lowde’s design, looking like an installation from an art gallery, enhances the bizarre atmosphere.

Both pieces are at once obtuse and complex. It is remarkable that such short works can generate so much speculation and carry such emotion. The evening is one that Pinter fans simply shouldn’t miss.

Until 1 October 2011


Then transferring to the Young Vic 6 – 15 October 2011


Written 21 September 2011 for The London Magazine