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Review of The Entertainer at The Opera House, Manchester

Shane Ritchie on stage with a microphone
29 Oct 2019

Shane Richie is currently performing at the Opera House in John Osborne’s hard-hitting social commentary- The Entertainer. We were kindly gifted tickets to the play’s opening night performance. Read on to find out what we thought. 

 
The Entertainer was written by Osbourne in the aftermath of World War two and explores cultural and political changes at this time. For this  re-imagined production, the action has been reset from 1956 to the year 1982. As we entered the theatre, we were instantly met by the sounds of 80’s pop music- which set the scene perfectly and got our toes tapping. Newspaper clippings from the period were projected on the walls and told the audience that we were being transported back to a Britain that was deep in the throws of the Falklands War. 

The Entertainer Shane Richie Archie Rice by Helen Murray 6

Richie plays Archie Rice, an old fashioned stand-up comedian- who is struggling to come to terms with the fact that his brand of entertainment is no longer in vogue in a time of cultural change. The entertainment alternates between Rice’s disastrous stand-up performances and scenes set in his dysfunctional family home. Richie made his name on the club circuit and is undoubtedly the perfect choice for playing Rice; doing so with a real understanding of the craft of stand-up entertainment. His character is self-absorbed and unpleasant- a far cry from Richie’s more recent roles, most notably the affable Alfie Moon in EastEnders. He was mesmerising: commanding the stage if not the audience’s sympathy at every moment. The ‘stand-up’ segments also gave Richie a chance to show off his impressive vocal range, which was met with rapturous applause. 

Richie’s co-stars (including X Factors Dianna Vickers) are equally impressive. Vickers plays Moon’s disillusioned daughter Jean, who is struggling to come to terms with her turbulent relationship with her father along with her own despair at the state of 80’s British politics. Alice Osmanski is fantastic as Rice’s long suffering wife, Phoebe.  Her turmoil at being an army mother (her son Mick is fighting in the Falklands War) and the day to day challenges of being overlooked by her family are played out with impressive insight by the young actress. 

The Entertainer Pip Donaghy Billy Rice Shane Richie Archie Rice

 

The Entertainer is most certainly not a light-hearted play. At the heart of the action is a man struggling to cope with cultural and political change. There is no redemption for Archie Rice at the end of the play, but rather than disappointing us, this made the gritty realism seem more real.  Sometimes, in real life, we don’t always get the fairy-tale ending we’re hoping for and in this case such a transformation would not have felt true to the nature of the character.

We thoroughly enjoyed the show. It was a grown up affair with adult themes. We took great delight in unpicking the characters and subject matter on our journey home, not to mention drawing parallels between the politics in the play, and dare I say it… the current political climate. 

We would highly recommend this play to anyone looking for thought provoking and conversation stimulating entertainment with an adult theme.

The Entertainer is in Manchester as part of a nation- wide tour and will be at the Opera House until 2nd November.  For more details and to book, see here


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