Review: Get Carter, Northern Stage, Newcastle

Victoria Elliott as Glenda, Donald McBridge as Brumby and Kevin Wathen as Jack Carter.

Victoria Elliott as Glenda, Donald McBridge as Brumby and Kevin Wathen as Jack Carter.

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Gone is that signature tune, the London accent and there's no sign of the famous landmark car park either.

Fans of the Get Carter films will miss many of the elements which made Mike Hodge's 1971 film such a stand-out piece.

Amy Cameron as Doreen and Kevin Wathen as Jack Carter.

Amy Cameron as Doreen and Kevin Wathen as Jack Carter.

While this production takes its name, Northern Stage's adaptation is led by the Ted Lewis novel Jack's Return Home, even if the setting of Newcastle remains in place of his Doncaster backdrop.

While the scenes are staged in a pub, houses and a casino among others, it's a tumble of bricks below what looks like an arch of Byker Bridge which provides the industrial and grim setting, with props drafted in to tell the story.

The framework of the book and film hold fast, as gangster Jack Carter returns home following the sudden and suspicious death of his brother Frank, leading him to fight for the truth and justice in his name.

He goes on to uncover a host of criminal dealings between a network of unscrupulous businessmen and women, delving deep into the world of gambling, pornography and violence, inspired in part by the one-armed bandit murder, when fruit machine money collector Angus Sibbett was found shot dead in his car in South Hetton in 1967.

Kevin Wathen takes aim as Jack Carter.

Kevin Wathen takes aim as Jack Carter.

The cast, who perform Torben Betts's adaptation of the story through Lorne Campbell's direction, will feature some familiar faces to fans of television dramas and the stage in the North East.

Sunderland's Amy Cameron, who has appeared in Cuffs and Coronation Street among others, takes on the role of Frank's daughter Doreen, with her father, a silent presence throughout the scenes, played by Martin Douglas.

He takes to the drums during a series of scenes as his love of jazz drumming plays out, adding menace and a beat as the drama and threat builds.

Hebburn's Victoria Elliott doubles up as Frank's girlfriend and lady of the night Margaret, as well as Glenda, who reveals herself to be quite the mastermind of crime as time goes on.

Kevin Wathen as Jack Carter.

Kevin Wathen as Jack Carter.

Michael Hodgson, who I recognised from his days way back in detective drama 55 Degrees North as well as George Gently, plays the 1970s style well with his take on casino owner Kinnear and henchman Con, while Donald McBride, a regular in the Gala Durham's panto, a star of the Pitmen Painters play and more, taking on a hat trick of roles with crime patriarch Albert, businessman Brumby - whose fall from grace and a great height - still features, and gambler Gumboots.

The dose of London gangster comes in the form of Benjamin Cawley, as Eric, a face from Jack's past who looms large over his visit back home.

The lead role is taken by Kevin Wathen, who has previously appeared in Billy Elliot on the London stage among his theatre credits, as many, largely crime, dramas.

If his aim is to make Jack unpleasant, he's hit the mark. While Michael Caine's turn sees the audience take his side, despite all the horrid acts he carries out, this Jack struck me of the kind of man who brings nothing but misery to those who cross his path.

Jack, played by Kevin Wathen, tries to charm Glenda, played by Victoria Elliott.

Jack, played by Kevin Wathen, tries to charm Glenda, played by Victoria Elliott.

While Roy Budd's distinctive music is nowhere to be heard, jazz still looms large.

Whitburn singer-songwriter Nadine Shah has teamed up with sound engineer James Frewer to create new tracks, as well as rework songs by Newcastle band The Animals.

The mix of shadows and sounds make for an edgy performance.

While I loved the set design and clothes, which were effective at setting the scene of the era, I did not like the swearing, which was prolific rather than well-placed, and some of the humour was misplaced and too laboured, even if the blunt, North East retorts shone through on several occasions.

If you're heading along, but your existing views to one side and take in the story.

Get Carter is on at Northern Stage until Saturday, March 5.

Martin Douglas, as Frank Carter, plays in the shadows.

Martin Douglas, as Frank Carter, plays in the shadows.

For more information or to book tickets visit www.northerstage.co.uk or call (0191) 230 5151.

Its national tour takes in Durham from Tuesday, April 12, to Saturday, April 16, with more details available via www.galadurham.co.uk.

Michael Hodgson, front, as Kinnear, with Benjamin Cawley as Eric.

Michael Hodgson, front, as Kinnear, with Benjamin Cawley as Eric.

Amy Cameron, as Doreen, with Kevin Wathen as Jack Carter in the background.

Amy Cameron, as Doreen, with Kevin Wathen as Jack Carter in the background.

Eric, who is played by Benjamin Cawley.

Eric, who is played by Benjamin Cawley.