Down and Out in Paris and London – Bewley’s Cafe – Review


Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell – Review

With only a table, two chairs, and a small glass of wine, the scene looks very much the same onstage, as it does off. Paired with Orwell’s evocative language, this minimal set is all that’s needed to create the world of the play; which has been expertly adapted for the stage by Phelim Drew, who also performs the piece as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe’s ‘Show in a Bag’ strand.

Drew performs the show with an infectious energy, which draws you immediately into the story. He is effortlessly charming in the central role, and slips delicately into the various other characters he encounters; whether it’s the mistress of a friend referring to him as ‘my little wolf’, or a drunken Frenchman’s rendition of the Marseillaise. Drew paces the performance well, with each scene building to an almost manic crescendo, but leaving breathing space before launching forth again.

This keeps the action moving without losing clarity, though there’s a lot of action to keep up with crammed into the show’s 60 minute running time. Orwell’s story has undoubtedly stood the test of time; and worries of poverty, struggling to get work, and homelessness, are as recognisable today as ever. However, I would question whether this traditionally staged literary adaptation, performed by a well established actor, really fits into the fringe festival’s ethos of challenging theatrical norms. It is an undoubtedly strong performance, and a well written show; but there may be fresher and more original shows to avail of during the festival, which can’t be seen elsewhere.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell runs in Bewleys Cafe Theatre until Saturday 20th.

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