In order to work for the audience, The Ruffian on the Stair needs to drip with malice and sexual suppression. Sadly, Paul Clayton’s version at the Hope Theatre does not do this. We are left with a revenge tale which, lacking variety of pace and excitement, trundles slowly to its underwhelming conclusion. There is sexual threat and suggestion under many of the scenes which this production fails to bring out. The relationships do not seem to have been thoroughly worked out, and a lack of physicality keeps the characters separate.
While Lucy Benjamin, as Joyce, shows the downtrodden woman effectively, she lacks the despair and ambiguous attraction her character can have towards the intruder.
Gary Webster shows us the strength and violence of Mike, but could give us more of the sexual pull towards Wilson – a moment where he strokes his shoulders is not enough to carry this idea.
Adam Buchanan gives us a Wilson lacking the drive and charisma required to power this play along. We see too much of the boy hairdresser and not enough of the avenger.
The set by Rachael Ryan adds little to the setting. Although it looks attractive, having a cutaway door and wall to allow us to see outside the room detracts from the action. There is a loss of tension and mystery if we can see Wilson standing outside the door. It is awkward for an actor to pretend to shout through a keyhole, when there is no door surrounding it. Having created an alley outside, it does not get used. Bringing that space into the main room would have given more room to work.
I trust that as the run continues, the actors can release the drama within this play by becoming more intimate with their characters and each other.