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Brighton Year-Round 2023

The Ruffian on the Stair

December Hall Actors Theatre

Genre: Drama

Venue: Lantern Theatre, Brighton


Low Down

A brilliant revival of Joe Orton’s masterpiece-well overdue!


In what would otherwise have been Joe Orton’s ninetieth birthday (albeit for his tragic death in nineteen sixty-seven -this well-deserved revival is superb treatment by an equally brilliant cast and director.

Set in a squalid bed sitting room in sixty-three an ex boxer (Mike)and his mistress  and ex-prostitute (Joyce) set the scene. But- As with all of Orton’s work- what isn’t said take forefront in the mind- -rather than what IS! The backstories and questions that we as an audience are left to create in our minds-proves Orton’s lasting legacy as one of Britain’s greatest playwrights.

From the outset- Tension is the key note- with  Mike and Joyce instantly making us question their motives. Both roles are handled to perfection by Paul Dowst and Rachel de Silva respectively.)

Indeed, Dowst’s skilful portrayal of Mikes suspicious suspicious persona puts one in mind of the late  actor -Robert Vaughan.  Into the mix arrives the mysterious Wilson- skilfully played by equally superb  James Freed

– three characters in whom one doesn’t know which to believe or trust.

The cast play on so many levels- but balancing  building and maintaining  the tension to the end.

Lindsay Dale as director has finely balanced and tuned the pause and pace of the piece.

Totally authentic props and costumes convey beautifully the dingy bed sit and a soundscape of traffic prevented the piece appearing to take place in a void with no background noise. Likewise, the mysterious bumps and sounds that emanate around the dingy bed sit, all contributed to a theatrical experience that make us believe we too are inhabiting bed sit land/.

Without giving too much of the crucial plot away- Orton’s style of black comedy and naturalistic style shines through and thanks to this faithful revival –the dialogue is brilliantly surrealistic. Orton observed the fatuities of his universe(and ours)with an acute eye !His genius should now d be back in the public eye where it belongs. (And Ironically- considering the circumstances of Orton’s own death-there is at least one murder and marital jealousy embedded in the plot)

Perhaps combined with another one of Orton’s shorter works would make for a fuller evening-but the piece stands alone as a piece of totally compelling intimate theatre.

Catch it while you can.