A halfway house between his most famous plays, ‘Mojo’ and ‘Jerusalem’, Jez Butterworth’s ‘The Winterling’ throws East End ne’er-do-wells into the deepest, darkest English countryside. Sebastien Blanc’s top-quality fringe revival hangs on the coattails of recent Broadway success, but it more than delivers in its own right.
Here, Dartmoor becomes the Siberia of the south-west. Len West, an exiled gangster turfed out for untrustworthiness, gradually claims his territory off local badger-fighting hobo Draycott (Luke Trebilcock).
However, the past comes a-knocking, when Wally, West’s former associate, turns up with new recruit Patsy in tow. The choice is between two communities, neither of which society would condone. It hasn’t the scope or satisfaction of Butterworth’s best, but ‘The Winterling’ is characteristically moreish thanks to its high-definition misfits and clash of casual domesticity and menace.
Despite a tendency to rush and shout, Blanc refuses to fill the blanks and so controls the atmosphere perfectly. Like dirt under the fingernails of a corpse, it’s both repulsive and puzzling.
Andrew Taylor works hard to imbue West with danger, stalking the stage with a glacial slowness, but the supporting cast are superb. Mario Demetriou’s Wally becomes all the more troubling for his constant joviality and Tommy Vine’s Patsy treads deftly between knowingness and naivety.
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