Review: THE FIRM, Hampstead Theatre

By: May. 15, 2019

Review: THE FIRM, Hampstead Theatre Review: THE FIRM, Hampstead Theatre For all its bravado and comedy, Roy Williams' The Firm is a potent piece about masculinity. Set in an attractive south London pub, four friends have gathered to celebrate the release of their friend Shaun, who has spent the past 12 years in prison. But as the evening continues, an unexpected guest and copious amounts of alcohol prompt revelations about all of those gathered.

The titular 'Firm' was a group of friends, including Gus (Ray Fearon), Trent (George Eggay), Leslie (Jay Simpson) and Selwyn (Clarence Smith). Now all around their fifties, these men lead wildly different lives: Gus is a successful businessman (and known criminal to the authorities), Selwyn works in a supermarket, Trent drives a white van, and Leslie claims universal credit.

With Champagne and beers on ice, the four men are ready to welcome back their old friend and glamorise the old days - until Fraser (Makir Ahmed) enters with Selwyn, proposing to rob a supermarket for easy money and bringing Gus's past into the safe space of his pub.

Though the first 15 minutes of The Firm make for uneasy viewing, due to the swearing and blokeish behaviour, the piece soon hits its stride as the friends gather. 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.

The hardened shell each man puts forward slowly crumbles as the night continues. Trent is mocked, and Leslie ridiculed for having a white girlfriend who makes him herbal tea and takes him swimming. Even Gus, the alpha male, in the face of the young Fraser struggles as we learn about his past, with an unexpected reference to West Side Story proving that musicals really can help any situation.

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 - some bumpy line deliveries and occasional moments of confusion in the script - pale by comparison to the direction and performances on stage.

I've always struggled with Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, but I'd happily spend a little longer in Gus's bar waiting for Shaun to arrive. Who knows what else Williams would have to tell us about these troubled and damaged men.

The Firm is at the Hampstead Theatre until 8 June

Photo credit: Robert Day

BroadwayWorld Awards Voting



Sensational staging and great music sung with such passion, but are changing mores transforming how we see the sad clown and his wicked revenge?

Photos: Inside Rehearsal For A VERY VERY BAD CINDERELLA at The Other Palace Photo
Photos: Inside Rehearsal For A VERY VERY BAD CINDERELLA at The Other Palace

Performances begin tonight for the cheeky Christmas musical parody, A Very Very Bad Cinderella at the Other Palace. Check out photos from rehearsal here!

Review: WITHIN TOUCHING DISTANCE, Stephen Lawrence Gallery Photo
Review: WITHIN TOUCHING DISTANCE, Stephen Lawrence Gallery

The VR-enabled Within Touching Distance is a profound work which digs deep into the psychology behind the most underrated sense. A word of warning: this show isn’t for the self-centred or the hard of feeling; those with the emotional awareness of an Ikea wardrobe will find little of value here. 

Cast Set For the UK Tour of ZOG AND THE FLYING DOCTORS With London Date Announced! Photo
Cast Set For the UK Tour of ZOG AND THE FLYING DOCTORS With London Date Announced!

Zog and the Flying Doctors, based on the bestselling sequel by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, will fly into London next summer, playing at Cadogan Hall from 1 – 31 August 2024. Find out who is starring in the cast here!

From This Author - Anthony Walker-Cook

Anthony is a PhD candidate at UCL but aspires to work in the arts industry when he finishes studying. He's probably somewhere in a theatre not working on his PhD. @AntWalker_Cook... Anthony Walker-Cook">(read more about this author)

Next On Stage


Recommended For You