More Plays and Shows
Back ◄   ► Next


Venue: Richmond Theatre 1964
Directed by Robert Peake

Billy Beavis Patrick Godfrey
Mrs Beavis his mother Anne Woodward
Irene Kay Patrick
Kevin Beavis Billy's brother Robert Jennings
Fran Kevin's wife Jennifer McNae
Teddy Stephen Murray

Richmond & Twickenham Times: Robert Harris

Sanity is as the insane people do

Sanity, says one of the characters in this week’s play at Richmond Theatre, has this disadvantage compared with insanity: it isn’t curable. Billy Beavis’s 10 months in the lunatic asylum leave him at odds with the family, in that he says exactly what he means and refuses to be side-tracked by the ploys of everyday social intercourse. His friend Teddy from the asylum, proves himself even more devastatingly sane by exacting a murderous revenge on Billy's tormentor. No simple recounting of the plot, however, will do justice to this bitterly humorous play, ‘The Poker Game’ by Hugh Leonard. The self-destroying attitudes of the sane characters, mother with her insistence on respectability, Kevin cloaking his dishonesty with bluff assertions of good faith, Fran, his wife, dedicatedly pregnant, are set against Billy’s single minded indifference to circumstances.

Hugh Leonard’s play succeeds not only in posing some of the problems underlying the superficially stable mental world, but doubly and triumphantly providing a stimulating evening at the theatre as well. The nettle of presenting mental disturbance on the stage is grasped with security and judgement. The characters are memorably drawn; the sequence of the action is convincing, and the dialogue witty, pertinent and lucid. That the accomplished actor Stephen Murray had a particular wish to play the part of the extravert Teddy is understandable, and his is a performance which, in its mingling of zany irresponsibility and appalling logic, makes a memorable theatrical event. Equally valuable to the action and haunting to the imagination is Patrick Godfrey’s characterisation of Billy Beavis, with his periods of silent intensity and others of that complete relaxation of the mind so suspect to the obsessively level-headed. Anne Woodward has the difficult task of suppressing sympathy for the mother and does this intelligently. Robert Jennings, who seems to possess the only authentic Irish accent in the cast, also hits off the Irish temperament effectively as Kevin, and Jennifer McNae completely fulfils the author’s misogynic intentions as Kevin’s wife.

I hope that on future evenings, the audience will be more co-operative during the complete and disturbing silence with which the play opens. Richmond has two weeks of this fine drama.