Saturday, 7 August 2010


A Marathon Run ...

The Contractor was one of the most challenging roles that TP faced in his theatrical career.

Line heavy and physically demanding, it also turned into an extremely long engagement, playing first at the Royal Court Theatre over three months followed by a year in the West End at the Fortune Theatre.

During that time TP also completed work on three feature films: Perfect Friday, The Beast in the Cellar and Villain, shooting by day and then on stage each night.

It was a regime which surely was only possible because of the rewards of performing a unique theatrical work by David Storey and as part of an outstanding ensemble company directed by Lindsay Anderson.

Men at Work: A Storey telling ...

The contractors of David Storey's compelling play are a disparate groups of workers erecting a large marquee for a lavish wedding and the plot, such as it can be described, concerns a tent which goes up, and then comes down.

The drama though derives from the loose banter and the horseplay of the workers as they go through the motions of their job and the everday frictions between themselves and their gaffer.

This is a routine they've gone through countless times except that this time the marquee they are erecting is for the wedding of the boss's daughter and that's a situation that's testing everbody's mettle.

There could be some relief from the characters of the boss's family who come and go, including the grandfather who trades samples of superior rope, but there seems to be not much more ease in the house than there is in the marquee.

This play is all it's own piece but the atmosphere is unmistakeably Chekovian and a simple conceit of a group of men at work becomes  a drama about all our lives.

Fitzpatrick and Marshall ...

TP's character in the drama, Fitzpatrick, is one of the contractors and lead protagonists.  Partnered with the 'other Irish fella', Jim Norton's Marshall,  they make for a wise cracking, rebellious double act.

Other than the verbal kind, blows are never exchanged, but veiled threats and intimidation hang dangerously in the air and Fitzpatrick's rarely happier than when he's needling the gaffer, Kay, played by Philip Stone.

Not suprisingly, behind the scenes, an unexpected aspect of this dynamic was that the  same emnity seemed to exist between the two actors off stage. 

Later they would know each other as friends but during the long West End run there was a distinct distance between them.  A testament perhaps to the quality of David Storey's writing, but equally an example of the constraints of being in a company playing the same role for over five hundred performances in a row.

Consolation Prize ...

By the end of the run, though, there would be a bonus both TP and Jim Norton. Film director, Sam Peckinpah who had caught their performances, cast them in forthcoming film, Straw Dogs, which would star Dustin Hoffman and Susan George.

The Contractor - Cast List

The Contractor would mark an early stage appearance
for Martin Shaw before going on to success in
The Professionals and a host of other successful series.
He and TP would be reunited for the police drama The Chief in 1993/1994

Daily Express review by Herbert Kretzmer

No comments:

Post a Comment