Theatre Review: The Ruffian On The Stair At Hope Theatre

The Ruffian on the Stair, The Hope Theatre ★★★☆☆

Theatre Review: The Ruffian On The Stair At Hope Theatre The Ruffian on the Stair, The Hope Theatre 3
Photo: Anthony Orme

There’s something very fitting about Joe Orton’s 1967 play being staged in a stuffy room above a pub in Islington. Originally written as a radio play, this one act piece was rewritten and staged as part of a double bill at The Royal Court in 1967, the year that Orton was murdered by his partner in their own claustrophobic Islington flat.

It’s the story of a young male hairdresser who terrorises Joyce, an ageing ex-prostitute and cruelly goads Gary, her preening gangster boyfriend. It’s unmistakably Ortonesque with absurd dialogue and peculiar statements, delivered as epigrams. There are nods to homosexuality, some fraternal incest, and the usual grimly fatalistic view of life and death. It’s a definite period piece and the creative team at The Hope have cleverly recreated a grimy 60’s flat which the audience perch around the edges of.

Photo: Anthony Orme

It’s witty, well-acted and atmospheric but the play itself feels slight, coming in at under an hour running time. If you’re a fan of Orton then this is a great context to his later works but as a stand-alone it’s diverting but ultimately a bit creaky.

The Ruffian on the Stair,  The Hope Theatre, 207 Upper Street, Islington, N1 1RL. Tickets £12-15, until 16 February 2019.

Last Updated 06 February 2019