Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Gompers review at Arcola London

by -

Inner-city decay as a metaphor for the breakdown of humanity or vice-versa has long been a theatre staple and it is something of a feat nowadays to achieve the desired effect. Adam Rapp’s new play rises to the challenge and, although he does not quite get away with it, he does leave an impression.

The inhabitants of a tenement block chase their dreams or confront their nightmares in Gompers, an American town decaying after the closure of the steel mill. Someone spots a ‘blue Jesus’ walking on the river (a red herring really) and expectations rise that everyone’s luck might be changing for the better. Through a series of encounters we gradually learn the outcome.

The ten performers of this energetic ensemble work hard for the play and for each other, although acting styles (and accents) wildly differ. In the conniving yet magnetic tenement super Dent, Noah Lee Margetts creates a vital focal point for the play, while Molly, the youthful mother-to-be of his child, Lisa Diveney balances determination with precociousness.

Nick Oshikanlu gives Molly’s suitor unexpected depth, Julian Stolzenberg imbues cross-dressing thug Shoe with real pathos, just as Ray Shell tugs our heart strings as the policeman with a soul. As the bedbound Carlos, dying of Aids and almost blind, Paul Lloyd is a compelling chorus to the proceedings.

Director Roisin McBrinn makes the most of her cast but is ultimately let down by the script’s inconsistencies. Rapp’s exchanges between the ever-shifting combinations of characters make compelling vignettes but they struggle to hold together as a play. While the crises of the characters’ shattered lives, old, middle-aged, young and unborn, are believable, the community they live in and which raised them is not.

So, a mixed bag then but a riveting production nevertheless.

Production Information

Arcola, London, August 31-September 18

Adam Rapp
Roisin McBrinn
Arcola Theatre
Cast includes
Noah Lee Margetts, Lisa Diveney, Nick Oshikanlu, Julian Stolzenberg, Ray Shell, Paul Lloyd
Running time

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price