HAMPSTEAD DOWNSTAIRS/CELIA ATKIN PRESENT
By ROY WILLIAMS
Directed by DENIS LAWSON
Running time: I hour and 30 minutes with no interval
I can’t get out of bed without groaning or feel summin inside of me is creaking…
We’re too old for this shit
3 May - 8 Jun 2019
Box Office: 020 7722 9301
'Williams reveals himself once more as one of the most compelling chroniclers of the complexities of masculinity in a rapidly changing world’ | ★★★★ The Arts Desk
'I'd happily spend a little longer in Gus's bar’ | ★★★★ Broadway World
‘This highly provocative piece has a great deal of veracity to it’ | ★★★★ The Upcoming
‘First-class performances’ | ★★★★ Afridiziak
‘An excellent, absorbing watch’ | ★★★★ EbonyOnline.net
In a pub in South London ‘The Firm’ reunite for the first time in twelve years. Once they were a notorious criminal gang. Today, they’re older, wiser and wistful - their lives changed beyond recognition.
But when an uninvited guest turns up to their reunion with an intriguing proposition and an explosive secret, they’re tempted to try their hands at one last job… Will they escape their pasts unscathed?
Roy Williams’ gripping play is a tale of growing up, lifelong loyalties and how sometimes, it is possible to choose your own family. The Firm returns to Hampstead Downstairs following a sold out run in 2017.
Multi-award winning playwright Roy Williams' other theatre credits include Sucker Punch (Royal Court), Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads (National Theatre) and Soul (Hackney Empire/Royal Derngate).
Denis Lawson returns to direct his sell-out production of The Firm. Other directing credits include The Meeting (Hampstead Downstairs), Little Malcolm And His Struggle Against The Eunuchs starring Ewan McGregor (Hampstead Theatre/West End) and The Anniversary starring Sheila Hancock (West End).
Ray Fearon (Fleabag and Silent Witness) stars as Gus. He is joined by Makir Ahmed, George Eggay, Jay Simpson and Clarence Smith.
The Firm has been kindly supported by the Godwin family.
The Arts Desk
'The return to the stage... of Roy Williams’ hugely successful South London gang drama The Firm feels timely – though as the play itself demonstrates, the Big Smoke’s gang culture, with all its shifts and evolutions, has been a constant for decades. Like the recent Don McCullin exhibition at the Tate, with its iconic images of gangs in suits from Finsbury Park in the Fifties, it forces us to look beyond screaming headlines and think about the codes, complexity and camaraderie of crime culture.'
'If that makes it sound like a heavy evening, then think again. Part of the joy of Williams’ skill as a dramatist is the deftness with which he deploys his dialogue. Words whirl and spin with the edgy playfulness of any kid in a skateboard park. Just as in Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads (his excoriating exploration of racism and football) and Sucker Punch (which investigates race and boxing culture), it is Williams’ ability to see humour and humanity amid the bleakness that gives his drama its power.'
'There is something inherently funny right from the start about the play’s premise, which sees four middle-aged gangsters – who by their own admission are getting a bit past it – holding a reunion around the prison release of a fifth, Shaun. Gus, played with worldly swagger by Ray Fearon, recently immortalised as Fleabag’s Hot Misogynist, is the only member of the gang to have escaped jail: yet his success, manifested in the swanky bar that he runs, feels increasingly shaky as the evening progresses.'
'Jay Simpson’s Leslie is the only white member of the gang. The moment he arrives at Gus’s bar, the testosterone-tipped banter kicks off.'
'Denis Lawson’s production moves with the fluidity of music – there’s no misjudgment in the rhythmic cut and thrust of the exchanges between these men behaving badly. With the entrance of George Eggay’s Trent... the sense of a joyfully dysfunctional family reunion intensifies.'
'Yet this is the point at which Williams ambushes us. The two final guests... are Clarence Smith’s superb Selwyn and Makir Ahmed’s teenage Fraser. With the presence of someone from a younger generation teetering on the edge of the lifestyle that has made the men street legends, they are forced to examine the worst and most out-of-control aspects of their legacy.'
'At a point when all aspects of gender and race are under the microscope, Williams reveals himself once more as one of the most compelling chroniclers of the complexities of masculinity in a rapidly changing world. Pitch-perfect performances from every member of the cast add to an evening that takes some of the most alarming aspects of our culture and allows us to experience both the laugh-out-loud comedy and intense heartbreak for everyone involved.'
Rachel Halliburton, 15 May, 2019
'For all its bravado and comedy, Roy Williams' The Firm is a potent piece about masculinity. ''At one hour and 30 minutes, with no interval, Williams' play (returning to Hampstead following a sold-out run in 2017) is perfectly timed to allow details to slowly emerge in conversation, developing each individual character.'
'There is little doubt watching The Firm that these were all great friends once. From Fearon's swagger to Simpson's defiance, each actor pitches it at the right level - not only individually, but within the wider cast. As Fraser, Ahmed laces his attempt to become part of this world of men with a delicate fear.'
'The other benefit of not having an interval is that the heady atmosphere prompted by drinking large amounts of alcohol is allowed to quite naturally build - first to a loud crescendo, only to be followed by the inevitable slump of intoxication. Denis Lawson's direction, however, does not allow the more sombre (and sober) second half to suffer from this diminution: conversations between two characters standing inches apart keep the audience attentive right until the end.'
'In its portrayal of ageing, masculinity and friendship, The Firm easily makes for compelling viewing, and the few points of critique... pale by comparison to the direction and performances on stage.'
'I'd happily spend a little longer in Gus's bar waiting for Shaun to arrive.'
Anthony Walker-Cook, 15 May, 2019
'After 12 years of sobriety, “The Firm“, a tribe of four ex-gangsters with a dodgy past, reunite at a South London pub to reminisce about their wild delinquent days. Now older – and supposedly wiser – the quartet have bigger fish to fry: ventures to take care of; family to attend to. But when a long-lost relative turns up with a sea of secrets and recurring scars on his plate, the group’s patience is put to the ultimate test. Will they confront the gates of hell once more or gracefully walk away?'
Hampstead Theatre’s Downstairs area is converted into a cosy, ostentatious bar for the setting of The Firm, a powerful and gut-wrenching play placing crime and identity at the forefront of its debate. Based on real characters of the same name who had once challenged Margaret Thatcher’s 80s conservative ideals by engaging in what they at the time believed was right – theft – the production sheds light on some of the senseless violence which continues to pervade today’s society, imploring older generations to educate the young on questions relating to morality and the sacredness of life.
The show is superbly acted, especially by Ray Fearon and Clarence Smith, whose roles as bar manager Gus and crippled drunk Selwyn are performed with such conviction that one cannot help but feel threatened by the sheer ingenuity of it all – especially by those moments involving the vandalism of numerous objects belonging to the set itself. This highly provocative piece has a great deal of veracity to it: it’s a cry for help to politicians, asking them to gravely address the topic of gang culture so that they may once and for all save an immeasurable number of lives from being destroyed.
Ghazaleh Golpira, 15 May, 2019
'This is the second run of The Firm at The Hampstead Downstairs– same director, Denis Lawson but a fresh new cast. Written by Roy Williams, it premiered two years ago and its back for more. In a nutshell The Firm is the story of the reunion of a bunch of ageing crims who have gathered together in Gus’s bar for a party for Shaun, one of the gang who has just been released from prison.'
'The Firm is well written and lively and the banter is on point and funny. The themes touch on brotherhood, male relationships and gang culture - old and new; interestingly juxtaposing the absence of moral codes, Yesteryears ‘honour amongst thieves’ versus todays ‘postcode’ wars. It’s bursting with umm… ‘colourful’ language to say the least, and packs a powerful punch at times, emotions are raw and conflicts explosive.'
'My favourite characters are the ones that introduce the play, Gus and the white wide boy, Les (Jay Simpson) these are the two that bring amazing presence and realism to their roles. Special mention and props has to go to Makir Ahmed who plays the teenager Fraser really well – insolently with a touch of menace, definitely a talent to watch out for in the future.'
'Decent play with some first-class performances - well worth a go-see. I think Shaun, the guest of honour who never turned up, proper missed out!'
Nicole V Sylvester, 21 May, 2019
'The critically acclaimed production makes a welcomed and triumphant return to Hampstead Theatre, Downstairs after its first outing in 2017. Any play by Roy Williams, who in my opinion is one of UK’s leading playwright is always worth a watch.'
'Alex Marker has worked wonders in transforming the space into what feels like a spacious upmarket bar.'
'It’s a fine ensemble of actors but Ray Fearon portrayal as the brutal and narcissistic leader of the pack... is outstanding.'
'Jay Simpson role is probably the most fascinating and developed. Starting out as a slightly weak eager to please side-kick, we watch him slowly become more aggressive as he senses Gus’s power dwindling to almost challenge him for ascendancy in a heart-stopping toe-to-toe enraged confrontation.'
The other three cast member provide fine supporting roles with a noteworthy performance by Maker Ahmed’s as the eager criminal in waiting ready to challenge the for crown of what he sees as the outgoing generation of criminals.'
'Writer Roy Williams and director Denis Lawson manage to handle the idea of male friendship and ageing with great warmth and sensitivity. The banter and putdowns that ensues between the group of men as they celebrate their past glories and their uncertain future as maturing criminal as a new generation with different attitudes sweep in provide most of the comedic as well the sombre moments of the production.'
, 19 May, 2019
Rachel Halliburton awards Roy William's The Firm four stars.
Ghazaleh Golpira awards Roy Williams' The Firm four stars.
Samuel Fishwick talks to The Firm's Ray Fearon about his stint as the 'Hot Misogynist' on Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge's brilliance and why we need to invest in youth clubs.
Makir Ahmed, George Eggay, Ray Fearon, Jay Simpson and Clarence Smith will star in Roy Williams' gripping former sell out.
First five performances: All tickets £5
The next twelve performances: £12
Performances thereafter: £14
Seniors: £10 (matinee only)
Under 30s and Students: £10
Groups: For every 9 tickets get the 10th free