Thursday, 19 February 2015


A revival of the original 1968 play by Peter Barnes that went on to be adapted into a feature film of the same name in 1972, The Ruling Class sees James McAvoy step into the lead role as a paranoid schizophrenic named Jack, who believes he is Jesus Christ reborn. When his father, the 13th Earl of Gurney, passes away, it falls to Jack to take his place and become the 14th Earl. His family and friends struggle with his new proclaimed identity and unpredictable behaviour which includes breaking out into song and dance randomly and sleeping upright on a cross at night. He blatantly ignores any responsibility given to him and makes them 'disappear' by placing them in his 'galvanised pressure cooker'. His uncle starts a plan to put Jack in an institution so he can take control.

Once again I take my seat without the slightest clue as to what this play was about (the research always seems to happen afterwards out of curiosity). No problems here though, it was quite easy to understand as the story gets going relatively quickly and sets the pace for the entire performance. We get an introduction into the setting with Jack's father and the family butler and shortly afterwards, he meets his demise and McAvoy takes to the stage to begin this story. At first it seems like a lighter role to what I'm used to seeing McAvoy play, all smiles and dancing, blasting out one-liners and executing slapstick like a pro. It's really not though, as weighty as playing a mentally ill character undoubtedly is, he really embodies all the aspects and as always it comes through as a stand out performance. Although McAvoy is definitely the star here, the supporting cast do not disappoint. Anthony O'Donnell's hilarious turn as the family butler made a memorable impression and I  was pleased to recognise Joshua McGuire who plays Jack's cousin, from his work on The Hour.

The theme of anarchy is present as usual in these types of stories concerning the struggle for power in politics and social classes. It's always interesting to see where it could be headed but again the ending was no real surprise and in fact left me a little dissatisfied. It's one of the funniest plays I've ever had the pleasure of watching though. I'm the sort of person who doesn't get amused very easily but found myself in constant fits of laughter, probably leading to tears at some point and then embarrassingly still laughing out loud when a scene is over and there is a quiet moment. For me, The Ruling Class finds that perfect balance as a play, in which it's complicated enough to keep me interested but not until it's so headache inducing that I won't want to watch it again. In fact, I'd really like to see it again!

The Ruling Class is now playing at Trafalgar Studios until the 11th of April 2015.

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