(Role: Jacko, a young seaman)
'One More River' at the Belgrade
One More River, which opened at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry last night for one week, takes realism just about as far as it can go in the present-day theatre.
In a sweltering West African river lies a 7,000-ton cargo ship, housing a set of passions as violent and irrational as are likely when men are cooped up in foul conditions and with a sense of grievance to nurse until it breaks forth in sudden violence.
It is not a pretty play; the all-male cast are not pretty characters, to look at or to comprehend. Beverley Cross, the author, has gone out of his way to achieve, aided by a breathtakingly real set by Alan Tagg (the one from the London production theatre snobs may like to know), an atmosphere stark and bearing within it the seeds of destruction.
The mutiny, inflamed by injustice - imagined or real, the effect is the same - and gin, is sparked off when a slave-driving mate, newly in command, injures the deck boy. Accident or design, it matters little. The bosun, 34 years at sea, takes charge and administers rough justice. At the end two men lie dead, violence has had its fling, and with an air almost feudal, the Establishment (the capital is deliberate) again takes charge.
It is produced by Richard Martin and played by the Belgrade Company as well as one can imagine possible. The result is one of the most exciting, in the purely physical sense, evenings I have spent in the theatre for a long time. Mr. Cross has a remarkable theatrical sense. I wish I could quell the tiny nagging doubt at the back of my mind that we have been here before - and not just once.
The cast of 12 plays so well together that to select names is unfair, but David Blake-Kelly's rock-like bosun, Patrick O'Connell's storming ex-R.N. seaman, Peter Palmer's canny carpenter, and Bryan Bailey's mate deserve mention because, having more to do than the others, they do it that much better.
K.G. Staff Reporter.
Birmingham Post, 2.2.1960.