November 26th 2016 | Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich | Theatre
Words: Phil Stewart | Photo: Sean Owen/Reflective Arts
The Maddermarket’s latest home-grown production, Getting On, is a typical Alan Bennett comedy: a contemporary tale of middle-class life, full of wit and humour, mixed with disenchantment, bitterness and regret.
Set in a small North London flat over the course of 1971 – when the play was first performed – Getting On centres around unsatisfied Labour MP George Oliver, 10 years into his second marriage. Despite living with his attractive wife Polly and his two children James and Elizabeth, he still feels disillusioned and unhappy with life in general. Distrustful of the young, out of touch with his family and friends, he’s frustrated with a world he’s failed to get to change: “he’s a socialist… but he doesn’t like people,” says his wife accurately.
George’s wry observations, interesting views and outrageous responses form much of the comedy, as he rants against the world, wrapped up in minor complaints - such as an incompetent taxi company, or the neighbour Mrs Brodribb’s dog's mess ending up on his carpet – while he completely misses the important things going on around him, such as that his wife is having an affair with young handyman Geoff right under his nose, his mother-in-law is dying and his son is getting ready to leave home.
The Maddermarket Theatre’s production was headed up by Trevor Burton, who - despite taking over the lead at the very last minute due to cast illness – gave an impressive performance very much inspired by Alan Bennett himself. Excellent support was given by Fiona Fletcher as his wife Polly, whose weariness of her husband’s tiresome speeches, and her easy chemistry with Conor Swords’ Geoff, made for a relatable response to a loveless marriage. Also adding colour to the proceedings was a brief but entertaining performance from Etta Geras as annoyed neighbour Mrs Brodribb.
With a cast made up of mostly new faces to the Maddermarket stage, Getting On was a pleasure to watch and another fine example of the company’s ability to consistently deliver good theatre.