REVIEW: Brimstone and Treacle at The Spring Arts & Heritage Centre, Havant

Michael Gondelle as Martin, Sarah Parnell as Amy and James George as Tom. Picture: Eleanor Carver

HumDrum Theatre doesn’t shy away from strong material, and Dennis Potter’s stage adaptation of his 1974 television play still packs a punch.

Tom and Amy are a middle-class couple, and after a road accident leaves their daughter, Patti, with severe brain damage, they are forced into virtual seclusion.

Sustained only by Amy’s religious faith and Tom’s bitter despair, they wait for someone to bring them salvation. And then Martin arrives...

Brimstone and Treacle has all the themes of Potter’s later television work – bigotry sugared by nostalgia, the subversion of innocence and the pitfalls of optimism.

Uncompromising performances drive this nasty tale to its unexpected conclusion in Sam Sampson’s vivid production. James George catches Tom’s contempt for his wife, the world and himself, all with his characteristic stillness.

Sarah Parnell as Amy bears the burden of their marriage perfectly. Despite the blindness of her faith in the malevolent Martin, Parnell keeps us emotionally engaged by this sad and silly woman.

As Martin, Michael Gondelle has the toughest job, being at once a contemptible con-man and something much more demonic.

He has tremendous vocal range, although at times he could be more physically mercurial, letting the audience do more work by signalling his intentions less openly.

Lastly, Emma Van Kooperen is excellent as Patti, powerfully focussed throughout on the action around her.

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