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REVIEW: Days Of Wine And Roses at Durham Assembly Rooms Theatre

“This, in its own terrifying way, is a love story”

J. P. Miller’s Days Of Wine And Roses
Durham Assembly Rooms Theatre
Until Saturday 7th October 2017

Stage play written by Owen McCafferty
Directed by Jake Murray
Design by Yale Lambrecht

The 1962 Blake Edwards film of the same title starred Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick as two Americans who turn to drink. The kitchen sink drama has been moved across the pond by Owen McCafferty initially to Belfast. The Jake Murray directed play has the feel of that period in the 1960s that featured in British movies like Saturday Night, Sunday Morning or Up The Junction. In other words this is not the bright and liberated 1960s suggested by the Austin Powers movies. No this is a powerful drama set in cities full of factories churning out smoke and problems.

Donal meets Mona at Belfast airport for the first time. They are both waiting to board a plane to London in order to start a new life in England. Donal has been involved in betting for a number of years and he has a new job lined up working for a bookmaker in London. He has also been following the progress of a horse that  he thinks is a good bet as it is in a different class.

Mona is a civil servant who simply wants to move away to the bright lights. Whereas Donal has got his future mapped out, Mona is less certain about what will happen once the plane touches down, but she is happy to have it that way. Donal offers Mona a drink but she doesn’t drink. Donal is persistent and, let’s face it, Mona has taken a shine to the confident young man, so she takes a swig from his flask.

The next time we meet them, they are married, with a son, and both drinking.

This is a two-handed show that relies heavily on the talents of Danny Solomon as the happy-go-lucky gambler and Alice Frankham as the new mother who is adjusting to her new lifestyle.  Both are gripping in their delivery of a couple in a fairly predictable yet still dramatic path.

The set consists of 60s bed sit furniture and a number of large black and white prints that illustrate the story form Belfast airport to the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus. I couldn’t help but notice how much alcohol was being advertised in the lights at Piccadilly Circus. Perhaps it is an omen for the couple?

The show runs for 90 minutes with no interval so there is no let up in the trajectory of the couple. Solomon and Frankham succeed in being a believable couple on stage. The pace is even handed and the direction isn’t over the top. It would have been too easy to be over the top with the delivery.

This is an opening production for the Elysium Theatre Company and they have chosen to open with a premiere for the region. Their plans are to present new writing in the region and they are to be commended on this. I, for one, look forward to their next production.

This is well acted and gritty tale that deserves a bigger audience.

Review by Stephen Oliver

JP Miller’s Days of Wine and Roses’ will be performed in the Assembly Rooms Theatre from the 3rd to the 7th October.  Tickets £10 (concessions £8) are available on the door or online at Ticket LINK

Elysium Theatre will be holding workshops for Durham Student Theatre members on Friday 6th October, at 11am for Acting, and 3:30pm for Directing. More information about the workshops is here: Facebook Event LINK

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