‘A Butcher of Distinction’ is a play you won’t be forgetting in a hurry. The second week of Mountview Postgraduate Director’s Showcase has a much more violent feel about it than the shows of the first. There’s an intense intimacy with the stage and actors that borders on the uncomfortable. You may know ‘A Butcher of Distinction’ from its original run at the Cock Tavern in 2011, from where it transferred to the King’s Head. A Pinteresque play that delights in uncomfortable situations, dislikeable characters and witty dialogue, it’s an interesting work but only lasts 75 minutes. Although that makes it perfect for the showcase, it rushes character development and takes Pinter’s trademark technique of preferring implication over statement to such lengths that events in the latter half of the play feel clumsy and unprecedented.
However, director Ryan Bradley does an excellent job of making this a riveting and nail-biting production. The theatre was seeped in festering heat, the slight whiff of the smoke machine and the gloomily lit stage increasing the jungle like atmosphere. At once we are thrown into the stuffy basement of the pub where the play unfolds, cluttered with odds and ends. In the basement two brothers, Hartley and Hugo, played by Joseph Tweedale and Matt Bradley-Robinson, struggle to muster their dead father’s threadbare inheritance, selling everything from broken hairdryers to handkerchiefs. Although Bradley-Robinson takes a short while to get comfortable in his role, the two have a strong relationship and work well together. Tweedale in particular is very strong, yet it’s hard to tell what age the two are throughout, switching regularly from unfathomably childish to worldly and mature. Their lines seem to suggest they are much younger than they appear on stage but their clothing suggests they are older. However, as the script demands that they dress like a pair of ‘croquet referees’, it is perhaps here we should search for clarification. The pair’s scavenging expedition is cut short by the arrival of Teddy, the pub owner (played by Adam Loxley), an obsessive, money driven pimp with some disturbing ideas for the futures of Hartley and Hugo. After Loxley’s arrival, the rest of the cast settle into the humour of the piece and the more comic moments of the script become apparent. There are too many uncomfortable scenes for the play to be comically brilliant but the occasional exchange shows that Hayes has got a handle on Pinteresque comedy.
Although the script is no a masterpiece, ‘A Butcher of Distinction’ displays the talent of Ryan Bradley and of the cast. A gory and perverted tale, it’s a macabre show not for the faint of heart.
Have a look at the rest of the shows in Mountview Postgraduate Director’s season here: www.mountview.org.uk/shows/shows/postgraduate-directors.html or have a look a the rest of our reviews.