Thursday, 29 January 2015

Review: The Ruling Class at Trafalgar Studios starring James McAvoy

The Ruling Class
Trafalgar Studios
Reviewed on Wednesday 28th January 2015

James McAvoy
The Ruling Class premiered in 1968 at the Nottingham Playhouse before transferring to the West End. Although Peter Barnes' play was adapted into a movie a few years later, the piece was never revived... until now. 

Wild and unpredictable, The Ruling Class is a crazy play - it is probably the most bonkers show I have ever seen. Countless times I found myself taken aback by just how far it dares to go; there are absolutely no boundaries. 

Be prepared to see James McAvoy as you've never seen him before. The actor - who returns to Trafalgar Transformed following his acclaimed performance in Macbeth - stars as Jack, a paranoid schizophrenic. Following the death of his father, the character becomes the 14th Earl of Gurney and finds himself well and truly out of his depth. 

The Ruling Class can be viewed in many different ways as there is so much to be dissected and evaluated; I can't even begin to imagine the post-show discussions audiences will be having as they leave the theatre each night. At the play's heart is a big power struggle, but that is only scratching the surface.

I imagine Jamie Lloyd has had an absolute field day directing The Ruling Class. He is certainly a very brave man; it has probably never been revived as nobody has had the guts to touch it. It's hard to imagine a play more perfect for Lloyd, the black humour is irresistible, the detail is mesmerising and (of course) there is room for some gore. It is beautifully disturbing.

McAvoy's performance is truly mind-blowing. I've always respected him as an actor, but this role allows him to show off a whole new side to his talents. At first McAvoy's performance is quirky and carefree, but when we spiral into the second act McAvoy is able to flex his acting muscles during some exceptionally powerful speeches. 

The short songs that are performed throughout the show (with choreography by Darren Carnall) are peculiar, but behold a certain charm which works a treat. I love that the old school theatricality of the piece shines through; there is a vintage feel to Lloyd's production.

Although I'm still unsure whether I'm feeling moved or disturbed, The Ruling Class has had a profound effect on me. Regardless of whether you love or hate the production, it would be impossible to see it without leaving with a strong opinion. Hats off to Trafalgar Transformed for going even further and delivering another top notch, thought-provokingly enthralling production.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The Ruling Class runs at Trafalgar Studios until Saturday 11th April 2015.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

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