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Alfie the arch-cad is back


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What’s it all about, Alfie?

Playwright Bill Naughton’s anti-hero, hedonist, misogynist and kitchen-sink philosopher Alfie Elkins is back, and he asks himself this question more than once.

Yet that doesn’t prevent him cuckolding husbands and fooling around with women whom he refers to as “it”. He’s a dishonourable cad who breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the audience as he boasts and philosophises his way through a succession of conquests.

The stage play began life as a radio play for the BBC Third Programme, before hitting the boards and then becoming a successful film starring Michael Caine in 1966. Much in the world has changed since the “swinging ’60s” and many people will find Alfie’s attitudes, beliefs and values problematical. However, there is a complexity about the politically incorrect dinosaur which is fascinating.

At various times he is callous, tender and humorous as he allows the audience to eavesdrop on his interactions and tries to justify his amoral behaviour.

Marc Clement plays the charismatic and conceited scoundrel in Matt Byrne Media’s production of Alfie – and through warm geniality he makes the arch-cad likeable. But to nail the part, the dialogue from Alfie’s many monologues needs to be clear, and Clement, with faux cockney accent, was sometimes difficult to hear on opening night. It was pity, because at other moments, the actor delivered his lines with style and mischievously dropped asides that had the audience laughing out loud.

Marc Clement as Alfie with Sean Hilton as fellow patient Harry in MBM’s production of Alfie.

Marc Clement as Alfie with Sean Hilton as fellow patient Harry in MBM’s production of Alfie.

Matt Byrne judiciously contains his production, and allows his ensemble room to manoeuvre without losing momentum, direction and drive.   There’s plenty of humour, and Byrne’s deft direction comes to the fore during a scene in which Alfie taunts Harry (Sean Hilton) about his future without his hypothetically unfaithful wife, while simultaneously the rogue is receiving special loving care from Carla (Anjali Sarma), his nurse.

Naturally, we also meet Alfie’s women, including spicy Siddie (Niki Yiannoullou), imperceptive Gilda  (Kristen Tommasini), and experienced Ruby (Nadine Wood), who finally gives him his comeuppance.

This production has heart and is exhilarating fun, with the tireless cast bringing the story to lustrous, convincing life.

Matt Byrne Media is presenting Alfie at Holden Street Theatres until October 24.

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