Wolf Mankowitz’s adaptation of a story by Gogol won him an Academy Award in 1953 for best short story. It’s a simple, endearing morality tale, and New End’s production is strengthened by strong casting and a simple setting.
David Graham and George Layton in The Bespoke Overcoat at New End Theatre
Part of the theatre’s Jewish season, the play is a reminder of the abject poverty faced by the East End Jewish communities after the Second World War. And yet it is also a celebration of the Jewish can-do spirit that helped those living in such penury get through it.
Ninon Jerome lets the actors swim in their characters - an old tailor Morry, played by George Layton, and his client Fender - David Graham. They are warmly drawn and richly mined by these two actors.
Fender is dead and died for want of a warm coat as he worked as a stocktaker for the family firm he’d served most of his life. Morry was making that coat and blames himself for not finishing it in time. But Fender blames his old boss, Ranting, played by James Barron, whom he had known since a child and was exploited by.
It’s not a deep play. There’s a fairly obvious strong moral code being drawn up. It tells us a little of friendship and of loyalty. It works as a short piece of entertainment because of the sharp, witty script and because of the performances.
Special mention must also be made of the set, designed by Helen Atherton which cleverly alludes to the heritage of the East End in which the play is set.