The March on Russia at Richmond’s Orange Tree received a 4.1-star average pro rating, with none awarding less than four. Michael Billington (Guardian) thought “There could no better tribute” to the late David Storey than reviving his “neglected” 1989 play depicting “an uneasy family reunion”. Sarah Crompton (What’s On Stage) described a “journey… to the heart of family relations… sharp and funny… but bleak too” with a “brutally truthful” feel. Tom Wicker (The Stage) found “the gulf between young and old… like an ache” and detected “a mournful truthfulness, sketched out beautifully”. Admiring Storey’s “great skill”, Billington saw in the play both “poignant family drama” and “a microcosm of the wider world’s disappointments”. Wicker found its “depiction of a Yorkshire full of closed-down coal pits… hauntingly melancholic” but Fiona Mountford (ES) found this “wistful, elegiac tone underpins much humour” as Storey “exquisitely captures the daily rhythms of long-married, low-level bickering”.
Billington found Alice Hamilton’s production “rightly rooted in domestic detail” and Crompton admired a “simulacrum of a real home, down to the fire, constantly tended” within which “a convincing family emerges”. Wicker admired Hamilton’s “confident grasp of the power of stillness” as “she brings out every detail” of this “finely textured” piece. Crompton found her “gently sympathetic to the play’s quiet, slow unfolding” but often detected “speeches being made rather than words being spoken”. Billington felt she “neatly captures the play’s delicate shifts of mood” and Mountford described a “quiet, accomplished production” admiring the range of “different emotions… signified by the simple act of making a pot of tea”.
Mountford found Ian Gelder and Sue Wallace “both excellent” as the couple. Billington thought Wallace “particularly fine… “outwardly plucky” with a “sadness… revealed only in her eyes” and found Gelder “captures perfectly Pasmore’s surface bravado and secret vulnerability”. Crompton saw him “beautifully played with a sort of game resignation” until he “comes to life” in telling a wartime story “wonderfully, managing to balance the poetry in Storey’s writing with the rhythm of speech”.
Wicker praised “good, nuanced work” from Colin Tierney, Sarah Belcher and Connie Walker as the children and Crompton saw “all in clearly differentiated ways struggling with dislocation and loss”. Billington thought Walker’s character “underwritten” but found Tierney “morosely haunted” and felt Belcher “pinpoints Wendy’s festering filial resentment”.
Billington hailed “a deeply moving study of the quiet despair behind the materialist orthodoxy of the 1980s” and Crompton praised “a reminder of just how good and pertinent a playwright Storey was” concluding “his darkly compassionate voice deserves to be heard”. Wicker felt this “powerfully affecting” show “belongs to” Gelder and Wallace, concluding “You feel the weight of the years in their every bitterly funny jibe, but also the love. It stings.” Mountford suggested we “celebrate this superlative remounting” of a “crisply bittersweet” play, which she found “beautiful, quietly heartbreaking”.
Booking to 7 Oct 2017 with tickets available from the Orange Tree. And if that’s put you in the mood to venture into another family’s heart of darkness, we still have tickets for the upcoming London transfer of Bristol Old Vic’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, with prices from £29.