Once in a while there's a play that completely blows you away, and this, for me, is the one. Keepers of the Flame is Newcastle-based playwright Sean O'Brien's powerful, funny, violent account of poet Richard Jameson, who falls in love and finds himself caught up in a fascist struggle that strikes at the very heart of the nation. Live Theatre is all about new writing, and this exciting prremiere heralds a major step in its collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The acting, as you'd expect, is faultless and it's difficult to pick out an individual performance; Caroline Faber's beautiful voice is memorable, as is Deka Walmsley's terrifying psychopath Francis Finnegan.
David Rintoul's Fascist leader Exton is so convincing; the business mogul who thinks he can change history, posing in his neo-Nazi uniform. Geordie Trevor Fox shows frightening aggression as Steve, who feels he can never return to normality after his wartime experiences.
All through the play Alan Howard as Jameson is the voice of reason, so representative of the silent majority. Faced with Exton's frightful plan for his daughter Jane, Jameson's wife, all the poet can do is bleat 'But.... you can't do that!' But Exton can, and does, and Jameson never forgives himself for not defending her.
I could go on; the rich and satisfying dialogue, the shocking violence, the stunning performances by all concerned. It's a chance to be in the presence of greatness - do go and see it.
The Northern Echo, 8.11.03.