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‘In Basildon’ at the Queens

19th March 2019
Posted by Ros Connors

A slice of Basildon life comes alive at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch, with this incredibly funny revival of a 2012 production from the pen of Romford playwright David Eldridge that first appeared at the Royal Court.

Now on home turf at the Queen’s, this story of two Essex sisters who have fallen out over money some 20-years-ago, and who are suddenly brought together again with the imminent death of a relative, will no doubt resonate with many a family today. This production is sharp and witty, the language is brusque, and Eldridge’s script pulls no punches.

We witness the various chapters of life and death through the eyes of an ordinary family from Hackney and who have migrated to Basildon, the social and political differences between them, and the events leading up to a funeral. Len (Peter Temple), a retired worker at Ford Dagenham is on his deathbed in the house handed down to him by his working-class parents. His sisters Doreen (Beverley Kline) and Maureen (Lucy Benjamin) snipe at one another continually over money. Their respective children – Barry (David Hemsted) a plumber, is looking for a bigger and better house for his wife Jackie (Emily Houghton), so they can start a family. Shelley (Charlotte Law), a graduate teacher, along with her ‘posh’ boyfriend Tom (Peter Bray) – are the cultural outsiders, and all are unwillingly drawn into an emotionally charged situation that intensifies when Len finally passes away.

Best friend, the truculent Ken (Patrick Driver), announces Len changed his will toward the end, and as executor, he plans to read it out at the wake which could mean a few nasty surprises, and the family fighting over the spoils. Reverend David (Peter Temple), cheerfully tries to bring the family together for what should be a celebration of life, but are the wounds too deep? Pam (Connie Walker), the lady from next door wants to help, but her presence only seems to cause further mistrust. The final scene is set some 20-years-earlier, showing the two sisters as good friends, while chatting away with brother Len about their hopes for the future, and we see Shelley as a child.

Great to see Lucy Benjamin back gracing the stage of the Queen’s following her wonderful turn in ‘Deadly Murder’ in 2015. Her role here as Maureen, this time perhaps more akin with her character Lisa Fowler in ‘Eastenders’. Beverley Klein as Doreen steals the show for me, with her incredible tirade near the end, resulting in belly laughs through and through, and a bloody nose for one of the characters. Credit though goes to the cast as a whole, who seem to relish every comic line of Eldridge’s script that is rich with Basildon references and innuendo, and ably directed by Douglas Rintoul. This show I believe has legs, and could easily transfer to the small-screen, with a series of successful comic-dramas if it were to be done right. And speaking of the small-screen, it reminds me of the amazing production design, and simplistic one-room set which appears to shrink as if you were looking into the back of and old TV tube. It is the first time I have ever witnessed such interesting forced perspective on stage.


Ros Connors

Gateway Drivetime

‘In Basildon’ written by David Eldridge, and directed by Douglas Rintoul runs from now until 30th March with evening performances, plus some matinees. See the website for details and ticket prices
Box office number 01708 443333. All photos (c) Copyright: Mark Sepple.