In the last month or so I have been to the Park Theatrethree times, each time to see a radically different production. The Park Theatre is a relatively new venue close to Finsbury Park Station and has two performing spaces. In addition there is a bistro-type café-restaurant that serves interesting and competitively priced food.
The play in the Park200 space at present is William Ivory’s Bomber’s Moon. The play is a two person production, starring James Bolam – well known for his long career on television and stage – and Steve John Shepherd, who is (for me at least) a newcomer. The play is centred on the relationship between Jimmy (James Bolam), who is a curmudgeonly, sick pensioner in a care home, and his new carer, David. They seem to get off on the wrong foot, but a relationship of friendship between the two develops. As Jimmy comes closer to his end – a sensation which he describes as strange, knowing that one has little time left – he has flashbacks to his time as a rear gunner on operations in a Lancaster Bomber. He tells David about the fears that these men in the airforce experienced and talks also of his friends and the ways in which they used to amuse themselves in between missions. Jimmy obviously resents the aging process. Eventually he tells David of his lucky survival when his plane crashes on a mission. Both men have their own secrets and want in some ways to keep face. When the two men argue, Jimmy has a heart attack and is taken to hospital. David’s life begins to unravel even further in a surprising way.
The twist in the tale comes close to the end – but this is no place for a spoiler!
James Bolam is a consummate actor whose sense of comic timing is used to great effect here. Here, Bolam is also able to use that grumpy bastard persona at which he is so good, and he uses it to great effect. Shepherd is by no means eclipsed by Bolam’s extremely good performance. To act with an actor of Bolam’s experience must be daunting, especially when Bolam can hold the stage as he does, speaking at times very quietly. The audience warms to the old gunner and has a great deal of sympathy for him, but it took longer for me to warm to the David character. The scenery is interestingly put together and the sound and lighting were exceptionally well done. Since the audience sits on 3 sides of the ‘stage’ area, it cannot be the easiest space to play, but I congratulate the cast and the production team, as well as the director, on this wonderful production. While I am of an age that was used as a child to meeting World War II (and World War I) veterans, who were friends and contemporaries of my parents (and grandparents), I noted that quite a few of the audience were relatively young – and this can only be a good thing, that younger people are coming to venues of this type that are still prepared to put on productions that are not necessarily the Theatreland mainstream plays. That being said, I think this play would hold up well in a bigger venue.
All in all, this is a play that I would recommend highly and, as I said above, I would congratulate the entire team on the production of a play that made for a gripping evening’s theatre.