West shines in thought provoking play

By Rob Holcroft Friday 02 November 2012 Updated: 08/11 16:30

The Handyman

Malvern Theatres

ACCLAIMED writer Ronald Harwood explores the unlikely but emotive subject of war crimes and genocide in his play The Handyman, which is enjoying a revival at Malvern Festival Theatre.

No stranger to this delicate subject, Harwood, who won an Oscar for his screenplay, The Pianist, presents an excellent platform for morale debate with this story of an elderly, Ukranian-born, handyman living very simply among the affluence of the Home Counties, who is unexpectedly accused of horrendous war crimes.

The handyman, Romka, pleads his innocence, with the support of his surrogate family who employ him and a female lawyer with a tenuous Jewish connection.

As the evidence against him mounts, the protests of his actual innocence come in to question.

Timothy West stars as the accused handyman, Roman Kozachenko, giving the quality of performance you would expect from such a theatrical great.

Caroline Langrishe and Adrian Lukis are perfectly detestable as the affluent, Mr and Mrs Field, who laughingly compare their middle class troubles to the atrocities of the holocaust, while often begrudging the inconvenience being caused them.

Carolyn Backhouse wonderfully intimidates the Fields as the striking lawyer, Marian Stone, but is gently supportive of the accused during the interrogation by the stereotypical detectives, convincingly played by James Simmons and Anthony Houghton.

The infamous Steven Berkoff evens makes an appearance, albeit on screen, as does the brilliant Vanessa Redgrave, who gives a stunning performance.

Joe Harmston’s direction was simply effective and contained some beautifully choreographed scene changes on Sean Cavanagh’s quite beautiful set.

Despite the subject matter this play contained a fair amount of humour that helped lighten what could have been a very depressing tale.

Although this may not be everyone’s idea of a fun night out, it is definitely thought provoking and worth seeing.

Rob Holcroft

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