Barnes' People ★★★★ Original Theatre Company and Perfectly Normal Productions (online) | Feb 18 - Jul 31, 2021


Barnes' People comprises four monologues written by Peter Barnes for BBC Radio 3 during the 1980s and they have varied success here in filmed performances. Matthew Kelly, in "Losing Myself", has the difficult task of realistically creating an ageing Harley Street doctor conversing with his deceased friend; his lines seem more suited to the printed page than being spoken. Additionally, it seems rushed with complex issues trivialised. Jemma Redgrave is totally believable as Rosa, a doctor beating her head against the brick wall of bureaucracy. She feels she has lost her anger and thinks her individuality has dissipated over the years. There is a welcome lack of sentimentality as she tries to cope with her own problems and those of elderly patients as she ponders 'Is there life before death?' In "Billy and Me" Jon Culshaw plays a ventriloquist who converses with his family of dummies. Here we are considering the nature of schizophrenia as the ventriloquist feels nobody would invite him to a dinner party as they only want to meet the dummy. "A True Born Englishman" has Adrian Scarborough as a Buckingham Palace footman spilling (some of) the beans. Given a superb performance by Scarborough, this is much the most successful, and funniest, of the monologues. It also suits Philip Franks' intimate style of direction perfectly. Peter Barnes' writing is very much of its time and, whilst many of the issues written about remain relevant today, they have probably been dealt with more succinctly elsewhere; nevertheless, the performances certainly make Barnes' People a fascinating night of theatre.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by Michael Wharley.

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