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


Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell and adapted by Phelim Drew

March 09 – 28, 2015
Time: 1pm (doors at 12.50pm)

George Orwell, although ending up being educated at Eton as a King’s scholar, came from a family where money was tight even if they had some grand ancestors. This background gave him a sharp awareness of the importance of money in order to cling on to your social position. Down and Out in Paris and London describes the wanderings of a young English man, of some education and social position, who chooses to live in Paris, and when that does not work out, he tries London. He ekes out a subsistence for a while. Orwell in his lucid prose describes the humiliations and the restrictions which a chronic lack of cash imposes. He writes from his own experience. Notwithstanding that it was written almost eighty five years ago, its relevance remains undiminished.

Phelim Drew has not only adapted the work but plays Orwell. He has a fine voice and is a big strong man. He manages with ease to evoke the shabby, dingy premises of the Parisian backstreets and its rats. Equally impressive is the evocation of the austerity of the workhouse and its humiliations. He introduces us to a motley crew of characters who by variety of slights of hand are clinging on to the wreckage. Yet what shines through is the humanity of the individual as he navigates the inequalities and reflects on the social and physical consequences of being poverty stricken.  Drew is to be congratulated in bringing to the stage Orwell’s classic memoir.

Review by Frank L


By George Orwell
Adapted and performed by Phelim Drew
Directed by Michael Toumey

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