Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Theatre Review • PURE GOLD • Talawa @ Soho Theatre • 2007

Director Indhu Rubasingham is much in the news at present for taking over the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, London, and changing its name to the Kiln. Most of us are up in arms about this change. There is absolutely no reason for it. Click here to read more and sign the campaign in favour of retaining the venue’s original name. In the meantime, here is a review of a play she directed in 2007.

Soho Theatre

Soho Theatre

Pure Gold, a new play by Michael Bhim for Talawa Theatre Company and a Soho Theatre co-production, is billed as a play exploring the contemporary Black British experience. Take the play down to its bare bones, however, and at its core is a classic morality tale of temptation, relevant to any era and with universal relevance regardless of race, creed or colour.

Simon is a dad whose definition of being a father is to make elaborate, material gestures and promises to 12-year-old Anthony, his son, fivers in his pocket for the next day at school, a top-of-the-range piano for his birthday. Simon’s vanity prevents him from telling his son that he has lost his job. Marsha (Golda Rosheuvel), his long-suffering and patient wife, keeps the home together in their straitened circumstances. She scrupulously feeds the family and cleans the family home without losing her generosity of spirit to share their dinner with George (Leonard Fenton), their elderly neighbour.

Simon fails to attend an interview, and the play opens with Marsha fastidiously wiping, tidying and cleaning the kitchen, and asking how it went. Simon has every excuse in the book for why he didn’t go through with the interview, and it transpires that instead, he spent the time with his cousin, Paul, who Marsha clearly holds in healthy contempt. This is where the temptation comes in: Paul has offered Simon a job and the promise of big money and the potential to have the fast-car, flash lifestyle to which Simon aspires is irresistible despite Marsha’s misgivings.

Simon (Clarence Smith) is not a particularly endearing character. His idea of fatherhood is in the Bambi father mould: be there for the big moments and with the big gestures while leaving the daily care and nurturing to someone else. Simon insults his wife without realising he is doing so, he is self-centred for his own needs and obsessed with his own thwarted dreams, without sparing a moment to consider Marsha’s feelings. Above all, Simon rants about injustices yet does nothing to help himself. When George offers the family the chance to buy his flat at a snip of a price, Simon’s vanity turns him down.

Paul’s entrance is a welcome relief for the audience, having had just about as much of Simon’s self-pity as they can take. Paul (Mark Monero) oozes criminality with every move, with every divisive, charming method of persuasion he can muster to get Simon to take on the job. In comes Samuel (Dermot Kerrigan), the real man in charge, and the work is made explicit: people-trafficking is the game, driving’s the name. Simon is at first reluctant then swayed to accept by the stuffed brown envelope Paul throws down on the table; Simon picks up the gauntlet of temptation. There is no going back.

Golda Rosheuvel as Marsha is excellent as a loyal, loving wife and mother sticking by her men, yet her discreetly mannered movement has just a hint of the immense will-power it is taking Marsha to keep her emotions bottled up. Simon is the most detailed character in Pure Gold, having to choose between the people he loves and the temptation put before him via the superficial friendship of Paul and his associates. However, Clarence Smith doesn’t make the audience really believe the depth of Simon’s love for his family beyond seeing them as just more status symbols to tick off his list of aspirations.

Mark Monero is the one to watch in Pure Gold. He plays Paul with sleek nastiness, one moment enticing and then threatening. Monero’s presence inhabits the stage and this only goes to reinforce the way Paul takes over Simon’s home with the air of a predator preying on the weak. Leonard Fenton’s George has seen the whole world before; he might be old and frail but he is certainly not senile, and he is neither intimidated nor impressed by the giant chip on Simon’s shoulder. Dermot Kerrigan as Samuel has very little to do besides be a calculating, cold criminal and Louis Ekoku as Anthony is a child actor acting his way fastidiously through a part.

The drama is played out in the kitchen/living room of the family’s high-rise flat with its views of Canary Wharf, a visual irony of the wealth divide, so close and yet so far: you can look but don’t dare to touch.

Emotional deliberations ensue, temptations abound, and Paul’s ugly, utterly manipulative side is made explicit in a violent climactic fight when Simon tries to bow out of the job.

Marsha does not know what Simon’s job is, but she is astute, and obviously can put two and two – or Paul and sudden money – together. The play ends with the final choice of path placed firmly in Simon’s hands. He leaves the job or loses his family. Marsha’s head falls into her hands, her emotion spills out and she weeps. Pure Gold ends.

It is interesting how a small nuance from an actor, or a slight adaptation of script, can alter a play’s entire mood. Marsha’s soft despairing tears are tears of loss. Simon is a leopard who will not change his spots however good his intentions. The written script suggests otherwise, implies an upbeat, optimistic end. The brief, written epilogue shows the family in domestic harmony in the not too distant future. The original script version is a feel-good version, the stage version at Soho Theatre is the far more probable reality.

Evie Rackham © 2007

Originally published on R&V 00-00-00

Advertisements

One comment on “Archive Theatre Review • PURE GOLD • Talawa @ Soho Theatre • 2007

  1. beetleypete
    06/02/2018

    Mark Monero has indeed done well since this review. I have seen him in many roles, and he was also in ‘Eastenders’ for a long time.
    Changing the name of the Tricycle is more than just annoying. It seems to me to be deliberate ending of a great tradition, with change for the sake of change. I will sign the petition.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

Ace News Desk

This site has been designed to provide reports together with news events as they happen when they happen across the world

Dave Plummer Saxophonist

Wedding & Events Saxophonist - Leicestershire and Hampshire

writerchristophfischer

Books, Reviews and bookish thoughts

Creative writing and art by Charlotte Begg

Creative writing and art by Charlotte Begg

Mallory James

Writer - Author - Historian

Act Professional

A How-To Guide for Actors from Someone Who Has No Idea What She's Doing

Iris Theatre

Supporting the next generation of professional theatre practitioners

thekeystonegirlblogs

The site for 'Madcap Mabel' - Mabel Normand

AADD-UK

The site for and by adults with ADHD

Scandalous Women

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

The Naptime Author

Anne Clare explores the world of writing, one stolen minute at a time.

FRENCH PAINTERS

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPHY

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

ART BLOG

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Woman the fuck up

Hear me roar. Writer, mother, actress, maker of beautiful things, witch. Not taking any more shit and neither should you.

solentaviatrix

Dedicated to Women Pilots of the Solent

cardboardcities

illustration, colour, fashion + lifestyle blog UK

Colossal

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Improbability Archivist

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, Doctor Who,

WCH On This Day

Working Class History anniversaries every day

janetbotanics

Yoga classes and aromatherapy products in Andalusia, Spain.

1stangel.co.uk/loisbryanphotography/

LOIS BRYAN Photography and Digital Art

History And Other Thoughts

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

THE VIRTUAL VICTORIAN

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Catherine Meyrick

Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance

Secret Diary Of PorterGirl

The everyday adventures of the staff & students of Old College

juxtaposed

Subject to change.

The Müscleheaded Blog

"Nothing Exceeds Like Superfluous Jejunity "

Women of History

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Jon Danzig's World

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

The pallet Junkie

Hand crafted furniture

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....

victimfocus.wordpress.com/

Exploring best practice and research in sexual violence. A loud voice in the fight against victim blaming. Written and Managed by Jessica Eaton, Doctoral Researcher in Forensic Psychology

Teagan's Books

Now available: "Murder at the Bijou - Three Ingredients I"

Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

The History Woman's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Art by Jess Miller

sculpture and artwork

Cooking on a Bootstrap

The #1 budget recipe website

surprise saffron

relishing in life's surprises, delighting in food, travel, art

Wish I Were Here

Journeys Through Place and Time

Doron Art

A journey into my world of Painting

Taylor Revert

An anything-and-everything blog from life's number one fan

Random Facts in History

History is complex, massive, and full of strange events and coincidences. Learn with me as I hunt those out and bring them into the light.

%d bloggers like this: