Dare Devil Rides to Jarama – A Review

Thursday 9th February 2017

Townsend Productions

Dare Devil Rides to Jarama

Louise Townsend’s eponymous production company has a knack for examining events of huge historical significance through the prism of an individual’s experience, and their newest play is no exception, focusing on Clem ‘Dare Devil’ Becket, a speedway rider who fought in the Spanish Civil War. Neil Gore’s text cleverly rationalises what could easily have remained inexplicable (why did this man fight in another country’s civil conflict?), by insightfully associating it with his union activism.

David Heywood is both engaging and personable as Becket, while Neil Gore – though ably pulling off a bewildering variety of supporting characters –  is at his best when he settles into the role of Chris Caudwell, Becket’s touchingly mismatched friend. It’s this friendship that is at the heart of the play, lifting it beyond simple agitprop to something of real depth and humanity, and demonstrating a clear evolution in Gore’s writing.

The signature songs are still there – as is Townsend’s brisk direction – but it’s so good to see Gore trusting his audience more, allowing the message to emerge from the narrative, rather than constantly wowing us with stagecraft. Impassioned, ambitious and illuminating, this is easily the company’s best work to date.

By David Vass