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SONS OF YORK

by James Graham
Directed by Kate Wasserberg
Designed by Alex Marker
Lighting by Tom White
Sound by Andrea J.Cox
Presented by Brawl in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre

Cast in order of appearance
Mam – Colette Kelly
Jim – Barry Aird
Dad – William Maxwell
Mark – Steven Webb
Brenda – Kazia Pelka

Time Out Critics' Choice
**** Four Stars Whatsonstage.com, Time Out

"One of the best new plays of the year...A real triumph for the Finborough" British Theatre Guide

A world premiere from our award-winning Playwright-in-Residence, James Graham, who with Tory Boyz at the Soho now has two Time Out Critics' Choice productions running in London concurrently.

[ finboroughplaywrights season ]
3 September – 27 September 2008

“Economy sliding, prices rising, industrial unrest ... I’ll tell you summet for nothing, he’ll wished he’d called that election when he had the chance, oh yes...”

Hull. December 1978. The Winter of Discontent. Rubbish rots on the streets and picket lines block the factory gates. Feeling betrayed by the Labour government, a community battens down the hatches and prepares to fight. Britain’s future hangs in the balance – and by summer, nothing will ever be the same again.

Meanwhile, on Arthur Street, Mam is dying, Dad can’t cope and no one dares tell him that Mark doesn’t want to be a truck driver...

James Graham is Playwright-in-Residence at the Finborough Theatre where his plays have included the Pearson Award-winning Albert’s Boy (2005) Eden’s Empire (2006), winner of the Catherine Johnson Best Play Award 2007; and Little Madam (2007) on the life of Margaret Thatcher. James was the Finborough Theatre’s nominee for the BBC’s and Royal Court Theatre’s ‘The 50’ new writers. His original television drama Caught in a Trap will be screened on ITV1 this autumn, starring Connie Fisher, and he is also co-creating and writing a series with World Productions for the BBC. He was recently named as one of Broadcast Magazine’s ‘Hotshots’ for 2008. Tory Boyz, his new play for the National Youth Theatre, premieres at the Soho Theatre in August.

Director Kate Wasserberg is an Associate Director of the Finborough Theatre, and Artistic Director of Brawl. At the Finborough Theatre, she has directed Little Madam, The Representative and I Wish To Die Singing. Other directing includes Switzerland (Hightide Festival), Test Drive (Soho Theatre Studio) and Doing Lines (The Pleasance). Assistant Directing includes Delirium (Theatre O), Holding Fire! (Shakespeare’s Globe), How Much Is Your Iron? (Young Vic) and The Blue Room (Theatre Royal Bath).

Barry Aird’s many theatre credits include Speaking Like Magpies, Believe What You Will, Sejanus, Sir Thomas More, Henry VIII, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Camino Real (Royal Shakespeare Company), Billy Budd (Sheffield Crucible Theatre), The Taming of the Shrew (Bristol Old Vic), and Yukio Ninagawa’s production of Hamlet.
Colette Kelly’s credits include By The Bog Of Cats (Wyndhams Theatre), Hair (Shaftesbury Theatre) Toad of Toad Hall and Salad Days (Duke of Yorks Theatre), Cabaret (Sheffield Crucible) and Sive (Riverside Studios).
William Maxwell’s credits include many roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company including the original cast of Nicholas Nickleby in the West End and on Broadway, Comedians (Old Vic), Richard II and Richard III with Derek Jacobi, as well as four roles at the Finborough Theatre. His many TV credits include a number of years as Jack Sullivan in Brookside, the Emmy award winning television series The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Z Cars.
Kazia Pelka is probably best known for her role as Nurse Maggie Bolton on four series’ of Heartbeat, as well as regular roles on Brookside, The Bill and Family Affairs. Her many theatre credits include Anna Karenina (Watford Palace Theatre), Beauty Game (Manchester Library Theatre), Journeyman Jack (Liverpool Playhouse), She Stoops To Conquer (Redgrave Theatre, Farnham) and many roles at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury.
Steven Webb’s theatre credits include The History Boys (National Theatre and West End), Chatroom and Citizenship (National Theatre), On the Shore of the Wide World (National Theatre and Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester), Oliver! (London Palladium), Kes (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester), Michael Grandage’s production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (Sheffield Crucible Theatre), and The Long Road (Soho Theatre). TV credits include The Magician’s House, After Sun, Holby City, Heart Of Gold, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Bad Girls and Peak Practice.

The Press on Sons of York

“Sons of York is undoubtedly one of the best new plays of the year.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“It’s hard to argue with the play’s lovely writing, and its lambent humanity.” Brian Logan, Time Out

“On the surface, this might seem like a gritty Northern family drama with comic touches. It is also an extended metaphor for its times...The three generations prove an explosive combination, eventually literally.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“It also has much to say to us today, as a weak Labour leader, voted in by his party rather than the country, limps towards his own final battle (or not?).” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“With another Labour prime minister facing an economic crisis, Sons of York is as pertinent as it is period.” Matt Trueman, The Stage

“The early scenes take us back with unerring accuracy to a time of strikes and power cuts as Jim Callaghan desperately tries to hold on to power such that it is hard to believe that James Graham is not twice his own age.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“There are several low-flying allusions to our current political woes.” Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

“The excellent company make a compellingly credible family group.” Stephe Harrop, London on Theatre blog

“Almost too realistic to watch, primarily because you care so much about every member of this family.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“Sitting close enough to the cast to smell the vinegar on their chips, the audience is lured into a horrifying unravelling of fierce, wounded pride, divided loyalties and clashing ideals.” Stephe Harrop, London on theatre blog

“Sons of York proves an engaging study of the family unit as micro-parliament within a tumultuous political landscape.” Matt Trueman, The Stage

“The acting is uniformly superb.” Brian Logan, Time Out

“The convincing picture of a working-class family rearranging the candles as the lights go out on social-democratic Britain.” Brian Logan, Time Out

“There’s a strong flavour of David Storey to the tenderness and tensions of Graham’s family dynamic, along with a whiff of Wesker in the…dinner-table political debate. Interludes in which Mam and Dad recall their heyday in song-and-dance even have a Potter-esque surrealism.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“Kate Wasserberg's production builds up a head of steam as a Storey-like domestic drama.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Its chief success is in the veracity of the family itself, as silences - comfortable and uncomfortable - collide with bickering, mockery and arguments.” Matt Trueman, The Stage

“A talented cast excel.” Matt Trueman, The Stage

“Quite literally, electrifying.” Sebastian Melmott, Remotegoat

“Rarely it is true when a review claims there isn't a weak link in a production - but in this I struggle to see one. All of the five cast were note perfect throughout.” Sebastian Melmott, Remotegoat

“A complete delight.” Sebastian Melmott, Remotegoat

“Believable fully rounded characters inhabit a world that was both real and terribly claustrophobic, a simple plot that was nevertheless captivating and a conclusion that left ones heart in one’s throat as the audience were dangled on a string awaiting the outcome.” Sebastian Melmott, Remotegoat

“Graham has already attracted plaudits for earlier works at the Finborough including Eden's Empire and Little Madam…Graham mixes the political and personal with rare skill, aided by a fine cast, well directed by Kate Wasserberg.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“Graham has crafted a marvellous...script, drip-feeding us the plot and twisting the thumbscrews of tension with remarkable precision and rhythm. He demonstrates a good ear for a line and a gifted eye for an image.” Matt Trueman, The Stage

“Having tackled Thatcher, Heath and Eden successfully, James Graham is fast building a reputation as a sharp-eyed and witty political playwright.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“Graham’s writing has warmth and sincerity.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“The indefatigable James Graham already has one political play, Tory Boyz, on in London at the Soho Theatre.” Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

“James Graham’s ‘Sons of York’ sometimes feels like performance art; an experiment to prove how closely acting can resemble real life.” Brian Logan, Time Out

“Sons of York is the best piece of new writing I've seen in a long time.” Sebastian Melmott, Remotegoat

“Barry Aird as the tongue-tied Jim and Steven Webb as his intransigent son suggest a buried familial bond.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Barry Aird, Kazia Pelka and Steven Webb all act with impeccable integrity and sensitivity.” Rhoda Koenig, The Independent

“Maxwell, Aird and a superb Steven Webb offer adroit contrast between three generations.” Matt Trueman, The Stage

“Jim, played wonderfully in possibly the hardest role by Barry Aird.” Sebastian Melmott, Remotegoat

“William Maxwell and Colette Kelly, as the oldsters, touchingly break out of the time-frame to remind us of their youthful aspirations as romantic vocalists.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Beautifully portrayed by Colette Kelly.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“Colette Kelly sitting limply on the sofa with mournful unfocussed eyes gives an accurate and moving portrayal of a woman with dementia.” Aline Waites, Whats on stage

“Colette Kelly, as grandma, performs her songs with a sweetness and modesty that contrast painfully with her present plight.” Rhoda Koenig, The Independent

“A perfectly measured and moving performance from Colette Kelly.” Sebastian Melmott, Remotegoat

“William Maxwell gets every ounce of comedy and drama from his portrayal of the patriarchal Dad.” Aline Waites, Whats on stage

“Best of all is William Maxwell, not only as the strong yet helpless grandfather, but as Kelly's partner in a charmingly foolish old song about the power of love.” Rhoda Koenig, The Independent

“William Maxwell’s Dad is dangerously balanced between endearing, hearty bluster and unpredictably vengeful anger.” Stephe Harrop, London on theatre blog

“William Maxwell tempers Dad’s intransigence with a touching sense of a fear of the future that he cannot permit himself to show.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“William Maxwell is tender then tyrannical as the patriarch Terry, the Old Labour dinosaur cheering on the 1979 general strike.” Brian Logan, Time Out

“Played immaculately by William Maxwell.” Sebastian Melmott, Remotegoat

“The best performance comes from Kazia Pelka as the resentful nurse reminding us that Hull hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Tough but sensitive by Kazia Pelka,” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“Kazia Pelka brilliantly reveals the unflinching intelligence and determination behind nurse Brenda’s professional cheer.” Stephe Harrop, London on theatre blog

“Played here wonderfully by Kazia Pelka.” Sebastian Melmott, Remotegoat

“Kazia Pelka, as Brenda, is an engaging mix of kindness, practicality and tough-mindedness.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“Supremely well played by Steven Webb,” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“Steven Webb as Mark delicately captures the teenage boy’s mercurial, gormless fragility, hero-worshipping Larkin and Bowie,” Stephe Harrop, London on theatre blog

“A terrific Steven Webb.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“There should be, however, a notable mention for young Steven Webb who portrays young Mark with so much energy, wit and warmth.” Sebastian Melmott, Remotegoat

“Wasserberg’s production is beautifully acted.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“Directed with verve and sensitivity by Kate Wasserberg.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“Playwright in Residence Graham mixes the political and personal with rare skill, aided by a fine cast, well directed by Kate Wasserberg.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“Kate Wasserberg sensitively directs an evening which amply showcases the talents of one of our most exciting young playwrights.” Aline Waites, Whats on stage

“Kate Wasserberg’s terse and attentive direction.” Stephe Harrop, London on theatre blog

“Wasserberg’s subtly skilful direction.” Matt Trueman, The Stage

“Some thrilling lighting from Tom White,” Stephe Harrop, London on theatre blog

“The dowdy living room where the action takes place has been lovingly created by Alex Marker, complete with suitably kitsch ornaments, Mantovani and Andy Williams records and a prehistoric video player.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“Alex Marker’s set has with all the hallmarks of a seventies living room - the heavy patterned wallpaper, the electric two bar fire, a white portable television and a record player with a Mantovani record cover on the shelf next to it.” Aline Waites, Whats on stage

“This is a real triumph for the Finborough with a home-grown creative team each excelling. It would be wonderful for the theatre if an enterprising producer gave Sons of York the West End exposure that both the play and theatre so richly deserve.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“Why can't all theatre be this good?” Sebastian Melmott, Remotegoat

 

Image copyright Stephen Dowle