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Ben Batt (George) and Jonathan Bailey (John) in The York Realist at the Donmar Warehouse (Photo: Johan Persson)

Reasons to see: The York Realist

By Harriet, Published February 15, 2018

Rob Hastie’s poignant production of The York Realist opened on Tuesday night (13 February) at the Donmar Warehouse, where it’s set to play until transferring to Sheffield Crucible in late March.

Here are my five reasons to run out and snaffle yourself a ticket for it immediately…

Ben Batt (George) in The York Realist at the Donmar Warehouse (Photo: Johan Persson)

Ben Batt (George) in The York Realist at the Donmar Warehouse (Photo: Johan Persson)

The Dales

The rolling hills of Yorkshire are depicted in Peter McKintosh’s beautiful set, but they represent more than just that. You are subtly aware throughout of the remoteness of the cottage, the steepness of the hill it perches on, the very rootedness of family life in the Yorkshire dales.

There is a lovely moment where John’s eyes are naively shining with the sheer majesty of the place. This soft Southerner related – it made me immediately want to be there. I suspect the Sheffield audiences might be much more with George in this situation, as he shrugs ‘Well, I live here.’

The romance

Ok, it’s Valentine’s week and I’m feeling a bit soppy, but if you’ve ever been in love and it’s just not been easy, you’ll relate to this show. The aching divide between George and John is irresistible, with moments of tenderness that take your breath away.

Praise here too, for Katie West as Doreen, the sweet childhood friend, full of unrequited love for George but knowing she has no chance. Oh Doreen, we’ve all been there.

Lesley Nicol (Mother) and Ben Batt (George) in The York Realist at the Donmar Warehouse (Photo: Johan Persson)

Lesley Nicol (Mother) and Ben Batt (George) in The York Realist at the Donmar Warehouse (Photo: Johan Persson)

Who does theatre belong to?

Gill’s play wants us to look at the very important question of who art belongs to. George is cast in the play John is directing. His initial reluctance to participate comes from the fact that ‘the rest of them are doctors and that’ – and he worries that he can’t be a professional actor because they’ll only let him be a Northerner.

He thinks the theatre is not where he belongs. John insists that things are changing – they are going to be different. This was the 60s … we can only hope they’ve changed enough.

The stagecraft

A working sink; a full dinner produced and scoffed; hot tea constantly being poured; and a fire that flickers. The production is full of delightful details that make you feel smack bang in the middle of the cottage – you just want to reach out and grab a biscuit.

Jonathan Bailey (John) and Ben Batt (George) in The York Realist at the Donmar Warehouse (Photo: Johan Persson)

Jonathan Bailey (John) and Ben Batt (George) in The York Realist at the Donmar Warehouse (Photo: Johan Persson)

If you love a beautiful play…

Put simply, this is a beautiful play, exquisitely performed.

Love, passion, family, death and love of home – it’s human emotion at its purest, so sit back and revel in it.

The York Realist plays at the Donmar Warehouse until 24 March. You can book tickets through the Donmar website.

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