Monday, 9 March 2015

James McAvoy in The Ruling Class @ Trafalgar Transformed

I have never laughed as hard as I did today watching James McAvoy play Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney, the 14th Earl of Gurney.

The Ruling Class is a 1968 British play by Peter Barnes and centers on attempts to cure the new Earl of Gurney of insanity.


The 13th Earl of Gurney accidentally hangs himself during his nightly autoerotic asphyxiation ritual. Having only one surviving son who has been committed to a mental institution, the Earls half-brother Sir Charles hopes to inherit the title and Estate. But is shocked to see Jack at the reading of the Will and even more horrified to learn that his brother has left it all to Jack. Jack is a paranoid schizophrenic who also believes that he is Jesus Christ.

Charles tries to discredit Jack and to prove that he is insane, so he can inherit the tile, but Jack manages to beat him every time through sheer luck and circumstance. Charles even gets his mistress to pretend to be a fictional character "La Dame aux Camelias" (from the novel by Alexandre Dumas / the Opera - La Traviata) because Jack claims that he is married to this character.

Another marriage ceremony is conducted with Charles hoping that Jack can beget an heir and then he can relegate him back into an institution and control the new heir. However, his plan falls apart when his mistress falls in love with James.

Jack then has another psychotic break and begins to think of himself as Jack the Ripper and murders Sir Charles Wife for trying to seduce him and frames the butler for her murder.

The play ends with Jack murdering his wife and taking his seat at the House of Lords.

James McAvoy was brilliant from start to finish, never flagging, his intensity is what carries the entire play.The script by Peter Barnes is fantastic, but you need a talented actor to play the manic lead role and James McAvoy did it to perfection. We were exhausted just watching his energy on stage, how he manages to play this role 6 days a week and twice on Thursdays and Saturdays is nothing short of amazing.

The play is a brilliant mix of satire hilarity and horror which happily directs its barbs towards English nobility.

The first West End revival of this classic cult comedy is directed by Trafalgar Transformed Artistic Director, Jamie Lloyd.

The Trafalgar Transformed Studio is such a lovely, warm intimate theatre, We would love to watch more shows here. The audience is so close to the stage, that it really doesn't matter which seats you get.


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