Withnail and I

Adapting cult films for the stage seems to be the popular choice in most recent times. However, the term adaptation seems to be used in exaggeration when it comes to this latest effort from Birmingham REP.

Withnail and I is set in London in 1969 and focuses on two young unemployed actors, one an outrageous alcoholic, the other shy and reserved, who share a rancid flat in Camden Town. They embark on the idea of a holiday, or rather borrowing a cottage owned by Withnail's Uncle Monty, who happens to be quite wealthy. Will this little trip spark their road to good fortune or will absolutely nothing change except their location.

The set design by Alice Power, alongside the swift scene changes by cast and crew are realistically the highlight of the production. The focus on detail does not go unnoticed.

It's such a shame that everything else just doesn't seem to gel together. If you're a fan of the film you won't be disappointed. It is literally a word-for-word, move-by-move facsimile, but Sean Foley's direction is disappointingly basic, it would have been commendable to see some new ideas whilst still capturing the cult feel to the performance.

Having the involvement of the original writer, Bruce Robinson, should have meant that the ability to breath fresh air into the story was a natural and simple move, but alas not.

There were no particularly bad performances by the small cast, but at times it felt like characatures of Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall's characters in comedy series Bottom were being forced upon us.

Entering the theatre with high expectations and leaving disappointed.

This show was reviewed on the 14th May 2024 at Birmingham REP where the show runs until the 25th May 2024.  Tickets available here: Withnail and I | Birmingham Rep (birmingham-rep.co.uk)

Review written by Rachel Martin


Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

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