Holden Street Theatres, Sat 10 Oct
Straight from the ‘60s, Bill Naughton’s classic cockney play kicked off two hit movies, a hit song on both sides of the Atlantic and a storm of controversy for its depiction of the new days of sexual ‘liberation’. Alfie tells his own story through this drama, both as main actor and as narrator. He manages to keep up a great connection to the audience, even when we want to hate him for his terrible attitudes and behaviour.
From the start of the show Alfie (Marc Clement) is a ladies man, a ‘player’; it never changes. Sometimes we see his charm, but mostly we can see straight through this to his being the embodiment of a self-serving hedonist.
Some of his partners have his measure, some are simply pawns caught up in his games and the audience breathes a sigh of relief upon their escaping his clutches. And Alfie’s girls are well cast, delivering their parts to a tee. Generally, we have more empathy for his partners than we do for Alfie himself. Sometimes we squirm and cringe as Alfie unloads his inner thoughts about these partners – with no quarter given towards today’s political correctness or even human kindness – particularly where said partner is struggling with various issues (background trauma, obsessive behaviours etc.). His almost complete lack of empathy is quite disturbing.
Alfie’s narrative asides come at any time within the drama, just like thought bubbles, and he’s ready to unload on the audience, to engage with us, acknowledging both our laughter and question our disgust, yet keeping right on character and right on voice – quite an accomplishment given the enormous amount of work that he is doing right throughout the play, with hardly a break in over two hours on stage.
This play, as long as it is, runs smoothly; the technical details and stage changes are well coordinated and executed, there is some great use of spot lights, light and darkness along the way – direction and production is sharp.
The performance progresses through several relationships (not usually sequential) including a couple of unwanted pregnancies, a child born and a ‘black market’ termination. Alfie seems to learn just a little from the hurt and distress he is a large part in causing. At times he seems to question his philosophy of sex without entanglement and commitment, seeing where it leads. We hope that Alfie might learn, sometimes it seems that he does, but by the end of the play we are back at the beginning…
Alfie continues at Holden Street Theatres, at various times, until Sat 24 Oct.
Book at BASS and Holden Street Theatres. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.