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Get Carter review at Northern Stage, Newcastle – ‘tense and atmospheric’

Kevin Wathen in Get Carter at Northern Stage, Newcastle. Photo: Topher McGillis Kevin Wathen in Get Carter at Northern Stage, Newcastle. Photo: Topher McGillis
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Forget the film, forget Michael Caine’s chilly performance and forget that now defunct car park in Gateshead. Torben Betts’ adaptation of Get Carter looks to Ted Lewis’s original novel, Jack’s Return Home, and its uncompromising depiction of a sleazy, brutal criminal underworld.

Travelling home from London to Newcastle to bury his elder brother, Jack’s investigation into his suspicious death becomes the catalyst for his own uncomfortable internal journey. He constantly talks to his dead brother, Frank, while probing the underbelly of his home town for answers. Betts cracks open Jack’s gangster persona. It’s a psychologically rich approach; he forces Jack to see himself as he really is.

Kevin Wathen lends Jack the gritty, well-controlled, hard-boiled confidence of an amoral mob leader, while talented musician Martin Douglas, who also plays a mean set of drums, gives Frank a strong silent presence.

Leo Warner’s striking backdrop, a huge grey bridge that spews red clay bricks from its gaping mouth on to the shoreline of the muddy river, is suitably imposing. The production’s soundtrack is rooted in the era and features exciting new arrangements of songs by the iconic 1960’s Newcastle band, The Animals.

Lorne Campbell’s skilled direction creates a keen sense of place and time, the production full of ricocheting expletives and underlying violence. All the characters are fully developed with Victoria Elliott particularly strong as Frank’s grieving and evasive prostitute girlfriend and Amy Cameron exceptional as their foul-mouthed daughter Doreen.

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Tense, atmospheric and psychologically rich exploration of a murky criminal underworld