Brighton Rock, Almeida, London

Dutiful and dull musical not worth the price of a deck-chair
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The Independent Culture

Richard Attenborough created an indelibly chilling impression as Pinkie, the 17-year-old psychotic gang leader who refuses salvation, in the 1947 movie of Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock. Now his son Michael, artistic chief of the Almeida, directs a musical version of the story.

Richard Attenborough created an indelibly chilling impression as Pinkie, the 17-year-old psychotic gang leader who refuses salvation, in the 1947 movie of Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock. Now his son Michael, artistic chief of the Almeida, directs a musical version of the story.

It would be an understatement to say that the Pinkie we've known heretofore does not have a song in his heart. Desolation, yes; defensive contempt for the world he yearns to dominate; acute sexual revulsion and a morbid belief in the certainty of Hell - these feelings crowd his cramped, Catholic-indoctrinated soul. But in the book and the film, it would be as easy to picture Pinkie breaking into a Maori fertility dance as imagine him launching into a ditty. There are, after all, more romantic reasons for marrying a young heroine than the desire to purchase her silence - wives not being required to give evidence against their husbands in murder trials.

The creators of this show try to get round that difficulty by using song as a way into Pinkie's disturbed consciousness. This tactic works best in numbers like "Some Things Never Leave You" where his awkward dance with Rose, the girl who knows the falsity of his alibi, is freeze-framed while Pinkie recalls the trauma of witnessing his parents' Saturday night sex sessions.

There are snags, though. One is that while Michael Jibson gives a fair performance, he never manages to communicate the hypnotic menace of this ruthless juvenile.

Then again, these inner monologue songs - also the preserve of Sophia Ragavelas's Rose - contribute to the musical's fatal deficiency in the mesmeric momentum towards disaster that is such a strong feature of the darkly driven novel and movie spin-off. A brilliant but repellent novel has been turned into a dutiful but dull musical. Not worth the price of a deck-chair.

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