THEATRE REVIEW: The York Realist starring Ben Batt & Jonathan Bailey


WHERE: Donmar Theatre

WHEN: 16/2, runs to 24/3/18

There’s a moment towards the end of the first act here when farmhand George remarks on the twinkle in the eye of the object of his affection, assistant director John.

  • Read on for reasons including details of the Sheffield transfer of this production

It reminds of the line about ‘a certain liquidity of the eye’ written by Mark Gatiss in our Best TV of 2017 Queers, which was staged also at the Old Vic.

There’s also a hint of our favourite film last year, God’s Own Country, about the story, which is no criticism of The York Realist because it was first staged in 2001 well before both projects.

George meets John when the farmhand rehearses for a part in the York Mystery Plays and, when George pulls out, the assistant director arrives at the home he shares with his mother in the countryside.

What follows is sweet love story until both realise their differences (class, town and country, north versus south).

Batt and Bailey make for a believable couple and we especially appreciated the strong supporting cast, led by Downton Abbey‘s Lesley Nicol but also with strong roles for Katie West (especially good as George’s doomed love interest) and Lucy Black (the farmhand’s thoughtful sister).

With beautiful symmetry, this production transfers to Sheffield 27/3 to 7/4. Tickets

The York Realist may have been more daring when it first aired but it still has important points to make years on and we found it sensitive and sweet.

It’s certainly the best thing we’ve seen at the Donmar in a long while.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Donmar. Tickets
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