A|fie

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Blackeyed Theatre returned to the New Theatre Royal for a one-off performance of Bill Naughton's Alfie.

The mention of that name brings reflex images of Michael Caine and it is a brave actor, indeed, who takes on the role. Edward Elks - bearing a striking resemblance to the young Caine - need have no fear as he makes the part his own.

The four actor/musicians who make up the rest of the cast are just as capable. Lisa Howard's performance as Lily, a woman undergoing an illegal abortion , is breathtaking and Gabrielle Meadows, restrained and controlled, makes the northern girl Annie a sad and touching figure.

Ben Harrison and Courtney Spence complete the ensemble.

While the performance is slick and the actors a joy to watch, what does stick in the craw of a modern audience is the appalling sexism.

Alfie refers to his conquests as 'it' rather than 'she' and the only positive portrayal of a woman is that of a good-time-girl who is virtually a prostitute.

If written today I suspect this piece would cause uproar. As a period piece, it just about gets away with it.