Battling demons at the Mercury

Visiting Mr Green by Jeff Baron at Colchester Mercury until Saturday.This is a clever little play that throws two unlikely characters together and forces them to confront their demons and their loneliness as the secrets of their lives are slowly and painfully prised loose.

Visiting Mr Green by Jeff Baron at Colchester Mercury until Saturday.

This is a clever little play that throws two unlikely characters together and forces them to confront their demons and their loneliness as the secrets of their lives are slowly and painfully prised loose.

Ross Gardiner is not yet thirty, ex-Harvard and climbing the New York corporate ladder at a rate of knots. But he has been convicted of reckless driving and given community service. For months he must visit and help once a week the man he almost-but-not-quite knocked down in the street, a task he is prepared to tackle with Ivy League precision.

The trouble is that Mr Green is a curmudgeonly 86-year-old Jew who doesn't want to be visited. He resents the intrusion of this well-dressed smart-ass, but the law insists the penalty must be paid and Mr Green, although the innocent party, has to lump it.There are a lot of laughs as the often-exasperated Ross wheedles his way past the old man's stout defences with carefully-chosen supplies of kosher food and artful questions. There's a moment when you think they might just make it as friends but then Ross, when asked about girlfriends, announces baldly that he is gay.


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This is against everything that the recently widowed Mr Green believes in and the going gets tougher again as, bit by bit we learn about Ross's traumas with his parents and then, that Mr Green has got a daughter that he has not spoken to for thirty years because she married a goy - somebody outside the Jewish religion.

Mr Green is played by Warren Mitchell who made his name long ago as another mean-spirited man, Alf Garnett, and his duels with Ross, often monosyllabic, are frequently funny but pointed as they rake across Green's religion and Ross's sexuality in search of some sort of meeting of minds.

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David Sturzaker's Ross is strong, well contained and convincing as a man gradually needled into disclosing edges of his unhappiness that he has never revealed before but still determined to do good by this impossible old man.

He may just have contrived a happy ending for Mr Green in his tired Manhattan apartment. But judging by everything that has gone before, few of us would bet the farm on it.

David Henshall

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