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Theatre review: The Ruffian on the Stair and The Erpingham Camp 
31st-Jul-2011 06:52 pm
tragicomedavatar
Back to London theatre but not straying too far from home just yet, the Greenwich Playhouse currently showing a double bill of Joe Orton shorts, originally written for radio and directed here by Maria Chiorando. Both return to themes of Catholicism but The Ruffian on the Stair is the more recognisably Ortonesque, a very black comedy in which former prostitute Joyce (Rebecca Hands-Wicks) is terrorised both by her uncaring boyfriend (Paul Robison) and the titular ruffian (Jack Brackstone-Brown,) a bovver-boy who keeps invading her bedsit with threats - but Joyce may not really be the one he's after. Hands-Wicks is funny and Backstone-Brown menacing and the production has a lot of strengths but is let down by the horribly miscast Robison, whose monotone sucks any life out of Orton's scathing one-liners (that's when they're actually audible though his muttered, thick Irish accent.)

After the interval The Erpingham Camp is a much sillier affair, like an episode of Hi-de-Hi gone horribly wrong, as the tatty holiday camp run by Erpingham (Barry Clarke) faces a revolution from the disgruntled guests. The cast of nine seem to be having a lot of energetic fun and while the first of the two shorts is Orton at his more obviously subversive, certainly to modern eyes (the jokes about the seedy priest in The Erpingham Camp were probably more controversial in the early '60s than they are now) it's the latter that has the stronger production here.

The Ruffian on the Stair and The Erpingham Camp by Joe Orton are booking until the 7th of August at the Greenwich Playhouse.
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