Welcome to our online Resource Pack for Brighton Rock. Click any of the headers to reveal or conceal information and video content. A free downloadable PDF can be found at the bottom of the page.
Pilot Theatre presents Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. This is a new adaptation by Bryony Lavery directed by Esther Richardson, Pilot’s Artistic Director.
It is a fantastic production for Key Stage 4 and 5 students. A fast paced narrative explored by an innovative contemporary theatre company.
The fearless young protagonists in the play are overseen by the menacing Dark Angels and brought to life by Lavery’s gritty dialogue. The play is underscored by a vibrant, original soundtrack composed and performed by Hannah Peel.
Kite is dead. They need to be united. They need this town
cleaning up. But is Pinkie the man for the job? This boy in a man’s world?
1930s Brighton where, beyond the tourist seafront there lurks a sleazy underworld of gangs and protection rackets. As the story begins and Ida muses, the gang members reconvene. They need to retaliate publically to stay strong; to send a message to Colleoni’s gang.
The victim is to be Charles “Fred” Hale. He has arrived in Brighton to distribute cards for a newspaper competition. Hale is terrified after being threatened by Pinkie’s gang and Ida is drawn into the action by a chance meeting with him.
When Hale is murdered, the competition tickets he was carrying prove significant. Gang member Spicer leaves them along the parade to create a false trail of Fred’s last movements. When waitress Rose sees Spicer in the café she collects the card, expecting to claim the prize but she has also seen his face. A face that doesn’t match the newspaper’s ‘Kolley Kibber’ who is found dead soon after.
In order to keep Rose quiet, Pinkie takes her on a date. She is mesmerised by him but to Pinkie she is both fascinating and abhorrent. Another loose end that must be taken care of. Spicer points out that if Pinkie were to marry Rose she would not be able to testify against him.
Ida is suspicious of Hale’s death and consults an Ouija board for answers.
She becomes the unofficial detective of the play, determined to get to the truth. Meanwhile, Spicer wants to leave Brighton. Pinkie doubts his loyalty and
arranges with Colleoni to have him killed at the races. Spicer survives the attack. This, however, is short lived as he is found dead at the bottom of Frank’s stairs. An unfortunate ‘accident’ witnessed unwillingly by Pinkie’s lawyer Prewett.
Pinkie is a Roman Catholic. Haunted by the mortal sin he commits by marrying Rose outside of a church and then having sex with her. In an unwilling romantic
gesture to appease his new wife he records a message for her at a pier side kiosk. Rose believes that he speaks his true and loving feelings for her, but the audience have heard otherwise.
Also at the races, Ida has won a huge bet on a race. She uses the cash to move into the best hotel in Brighton and intensifies her pursuit of Rose. She tells Pinkie’s men that she’s Rose’s mother and urges her to go home. She warns against getting pregnant with a murderer’s baby and insists that like sticks of rock, people don’t change.
Pinkie persuades Rose that suicide is their only option. They leave for the pier. The police ambush Pinkie and Rose moments before she pulls the trigger. Pinkie panics, breaks the bottle of vitriol and throws himself off the cliff into the sea.
Later, Ida bids farewell to Brighton. Rose is at the confessional, wishing that she was dead like her Pinkie. But there’s a chance that she’s pregnant! She is transformed and then remembers the record. Pinkie’s voice is on the record speaking a message to her and their unborn child.
The play ends as Rose reaches Ida’s gramophone...
Pinkie Jacob James Beswick
Ida Gloria Onitiri
Rose Sarah Middleton
Spicer/ensemble Angela Bain
Cubitt/ensemble Marc Graham
Phil/ensemble Chris Jack
Colleoni/ensemble Jennifer Jackson
Dallow/ensemble Dorian SImpson
Prewitt/ensemble Shamira Turner
Interview with the playwright Bryony Lavery
Why Brighton Rock? What attracted you to this text?
It was one of those books that linger in the dark outskirts of your brain once you have read it. I read it years and years ago. When Esther asked me to consider adapting it for Pilot, I said what I always say when asked to adapt something, ”I’ll read it and if my heart lifts, I’ll do it…if it sinks…I’ll be turning you down” I re-read it in a sitting, called Esther to say “yes” and felt very pleased that I was the playwright who got to do it!
What process do you go through when adapting a story for stage?
It varies. But, broadly, I read and re-read lots of times, to see what the book’s strengths and views and “sides” present themselves for today. We cannot be making a ‘historic” play. It has to have a relevance and immediacy and urgency that requires it to be done now. Then I start highlighting dialogue, character notes, moods, locations. I try firstly to see if I can get EVERYTHING…dialogue, scenes, characters from the book. I am, after all, a sort of assistant to Grahame Greene, tasked with making his vision work in a different medium.
Then, I put a broad shape of scenes and dialogue and action down to make the first draft. After that, lots of drafts to craft and shape the piece. It is during these drafts that I may find I have to add small amounts of dialogue, or even a new necessary scene.
What do you identify as being the key themes of the play?
The agony of being young, of being poor, of conflicting moral and religious codes, hope and despair…crucially, the fight between good and evil.
What is your role once rehearsals are underway? Are you tempted to step in and/or amend bits when you see it on it’s feet?
Once rehearsals are underway, it is my role to respectfully observe the work processes of other people making this piece - the director/actors/designers /musicians/composers - and to constantly check if I have got my job right. To see if I have included any stuff that interrupts or interferes with say, an actor’s job. I am a BIG FAN of judicious cutting, to carve a lot of space round dialogue so actor’s can act.
Is your adaptation ‘Ida’s story’?
No. It is bookended by her, some years later, recalling a particular struggle she went through in Brighton, but it is Pinkie and Rose, the people of Brighton’s underworld story. It is ensemble, in other words. It is everybody on stage’s story.
Interview with the Director Esther Richardson
Why did you choose Brighton Rock for a stage adaptation?
I think that it’s an incredibly dramatic, gripping story. I was interested in exploring the social context and what impact this can have on people’s lives. As the relationship of Ida and Rose develops, it invites the audience to consider the extent to which someone should intervene in other people’s lives.
Can you talk us through the audition and casting process?
Working closely with the Casting Director, Nadine Rennie, I was keen to select a versatile group of actors, who had a range of skills to offer as an ensemble.
An audition is partly about discovering an actor’s ability, but it is also about finding someone whose qualities complement my interpretation of the character.
What do you think is the biggest challenge of the play?
One of the major challenges in staging this adaptation is the numerous locations required by the story. The writer of the play, Bryony Lavery, has created a wonderfully fluid script which allows the scenes to flow swiftly into one another. Often, the most challenging elements to stage become the most theatrically exciting in performance, because we are required to find imaginative and unexpected solutions.
What kind of approach do you take in rehearsals?
My approach is collaborative and democratic when working with a company of actors. I like them to have the freedom to generate ideas and offer staging suggestions. But I remain focused on the clarity of the story that we are telling and the arc of each of the characters.
How do you think that this play is relevant to an audience today?
I feel that the teenage protagonists, Pinkie and Rose, will particularly resonate with young people, as they find their own place in the world during the uncertain times of today. But everyone will be able to identify with the thrilling narrative, which ultimately explores the ethics of human behaviour.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career as a theatre director?
There are many different routes available to become a theatre director, and part of that journey is exploring what sort of theatre you want to create and how you want to make it. Experiencing as much theatre as you can, reading a range of plays, and following your own creative instincts would be brilliant starting points in your own artistic development.
Interview with Composer and Musical Director Hannah Peel
What is the process that you undertake when composing for a play? What are your starting points?
For me the exciting part of starting a new show and even for writing a new album, is the exploration into the story. Delving into the background and finding something that gives me a metaphysical sound to begin my musical thoughts. Which basically means lots of reading, listening and watching to find the themes that move me the most. I then start to paint the characters in my mind, playing with their ‘sound’ and constantly questioning whether they would have a sound or not. This then allows me to go to my studio and create textures and themes for each scene they appear in, eventually mapping out a musical journey that follows their story through the show.
How did this work for Brighton Rock and what were your initial ideas?
There are an incredible amount of references to music in the 1930’s novel. All of that era is heard in different places: the pub, the promenade, the dance hall scenes. I started initially to investigate each one of these pieces. Some were impossible to source, maybe lost in time, but others were very easily found on YouTube. For me this was a good grounding but it was very clear that the intentions of the director were for a contemporary show and not having access to a full swing or jazz band to tour the show would make our lives very difficult.
I was very interested however in the underpinning of Pinkies mental state of mind and bringing out the aspects of the play that make this story a thriller, full of tensions, murders, fear and also love. Using electronic synthesisers and live drums means I can explore and find sounds to represent the dark and murky depths of the soul a lot easier.
How do you input into rehearsals?
With Brighton Rock there are many moments in which the music plays a large part. It helps in particular to create the exciting atmosphere at the races and also the dance scene in Sherry’s.
Listen out for the song in Act 2 called Secretive Love. It’s a very romantic song I wrote for Rose’s adoration of Pinkie. You may have recognised it on different sounding instruments earlier in the show, especially when Pinkie and Rose first meet in Snows...
Any interesting effects to look out for?
Pinkie refers frequently to Catholicism and finding redemption for his sins so it was
important for me to find a way to represent this church sound. However how do you achieve this with only two people on stage playing music? I really wanted a choir so; we spent a day recording a well-known choir in York before rehearsals started. I asked them to sing all the notes of a scale individually on an ‘Aah’ sound. Once recorded, each note was transferred and assigned to all the keys on my keyboard! Listen out for when the whole choir come in.
What are the benefits of using live music?
You can instantly see a reaction in the room with the actors and their movements. It’s a wonderful feeling to have that live impact and emotion, which you don’t get to share and feel as much through a recording. It also means the music can be very flexible in rehearsals, quickly and constantly refining to help create the perfect scene, true to the story.
Interview with the Sound Designer Adam McCready
What is the process that you undertake when designing the sound for a play? What are your starting points?
It depends on the play to an extent. If it is a new piece of writing then it certainly starts with reading the script. If it is a play I know then a chat with the director about their approach would be first. If it is an adaptation of something that has been a film then I will probably watch the film and listen to the soundtrack too.
Essentially it is about doing research which includes examining the text pretty closely. Examining the text usually will mean there are certain themes (not musical themes) that the play is concerned with and I’ll go and do a bit of research on those subjects.
If I am composing for the show and my work isn’t confined to creating sound effects and ambiences then I’ll start sketching thematic ideas that are responses to the themes or characters in the text.
Then I’ll send things to the director to have a listen to and see what develops from there.
As far as ambiences and sound effects are concerned, I will make notes from the text, largely to do with what happens when and when the piece is set. A lot of our responses to sound are closely tied to memory so getting the period right is key to creating believable sonic environments.
How did this work with Brighton Rock and what were your initial ideas?
I already knew the novel from studying it at school though that was quite some time ago, I also knew the film. First up I met Hannah Peel and Esther Richardson to chat about the production for a few hours. Esther and I have worked together a lot over the years but Hannah and I didn’t know each other and needed to find out how we were thinking and see if we thought we could compliment each other’s work for the benefit of the production.
We got on well and had lots of exciting ideas about what we could do to help each other’s work so all was good.
Essentially I am looking after the technical, sound engineering elements of the show and most of the sound effects. I support Hannah and the rest of the performing team, allowing them to achieve their best work.
A particularly exciting element has been recording the York Theatre Royal Choir in a note by note way with different loudness levels and creating from that a playable “virtual instrument” version of the choir that Hannah can play via a keyboard. It’s a very innovative technique and perhaps even unique in theatre, I certainly don’t know of it having been done before.
Exercise 1: Introducing the World of the Play
Context: In the opening scenes we meet Fred Hale. Pinkie’s gang are after him and he doesn’t know where to turn. They chase him through the streets of Brighton.
Warm up - Cat and Mouse
1. Stand the group in four or five straight lines, an arm’s length apart so that when individuals put out their arms they effectively make 4 or 5 ‘walls’ horizontally across your space
2. When the teacher says ‘change’ students pivot a quarter turn to the right creating 4 or 5 walls vertically across your space.
3. 2 volunteers are either Pinkie or Fred. They start at opposing ends of the circuit of walls.
4. The chase begins with Pinkie aiming to tag Fred. They cannot run through walls of arms but up, down and around the edge of the corridors that they create. To build tension the teacher calls for change every time Pinkie gets close or alternatively when Fred is getting away.
5. Play again with different volunteers as Fred and Pinkie but build tension further. The game starts with the group whispering Fred’s name slowly and in unison. As the chase progresses, the volume and pitch of chanting increases the nearer Pinkie gets but then decreases as Fred moves away.
To bring the game to a close, engineer Pinkie catching Fred (using the change tool to his advantage). They freeze then ‘the walls’ drop their arms and turn slowly towards Pinkie and Fred and walk slowly towards them (without squashing) but just so Hale can no longer be seen. Use silence or the Fred chant for different effect. Which works best?
Focus Exercise: Developing Ensemble using the language of the Trailer
Fred is found dead
They deny it was Murder
Rose is in love
They say she’s in danger
And that boy Pinkie
They say he’s evil
But what has he done?
Heaven was just a word,
Hell was something he could trust
1. Split the whole group into 4 or (if a large group) have students working in groups of 3/4.
2. Split the poem into 4 sets of 2 lines leaving the question ‘But what has he done?’ out of the exercise for now. Each group member to be given individual copies of their 2 lines.
3. Ideally students work on their lines individually at first. They walk to the rhythm, get to know the line. They pass/take it to people in different ways, e.g. as a greeting, delivering a secret message, as a declaration of love, as a military order. You could perform back some of these if there is time.
4. They return to their groups, share their individual ideas of how to present their two lines before negotiating their group version. The brief is that they must deliver the exact wording but encourage use of vocal techniques such as unison, canon, pitch and tone. They must also create a simple sequence of gestures that they deliver as a small ensemble using the rhythm of the language as their underscore. Discourage naturalistic freeze frames of their line. How can they physicalise each emotion/word/phrase in one gesture?
5. Circulate and spotlight good practice but allow time for refined sequences.
6. Share sequences mid rehearsal and ask for ideas of how to deliver the additional line as a whole group. In addition, what will be the start and end point? How are the groups to be positioned? (Possibly explore alternative staging to end-on)
7. Put the whole sequence together. If you have a projector in your space you could run the trailer on repeat or as an end marker?
Now take out the poem and explore the physical sequences created.
Could each group teach their sequence (or a condensed version) to the others to create one physical performance? If possible, film this sequence or at least encourage the group to commit to memory as it can be utilised in the following
SESSION 2: USING TEXT
Students stand in a circle to undertake a vocal warm up.
1. Breathe in for a number of counts. Breathe in for 4, hold for 4 and then out for 4. (Think about how it feels at each point). Improve counts up to 8 controlling breaths.
2. Add in the following sounds on the exhale of breath such as Mmmm…ahhh/Mmmm…ooooo
3. Experiment with tongue twisters (I often sit and think and fish and sit and fish and think and sit and fish and think- and often wish that I could get a drink!)
4. Split the group into pairs and allocate the scenes. Allow the pairs to read through and complete some basic blocking.
5. (Optional if there’s time) Put all those looking at a specific scene together in a group. Allow them to discuss what they think is going on in the scene and present to the others. What is the subtext? What is the status of the characters in these scenes? Why do you think that and is there a shift in this as the scene progresses?
6. (Optional if there’s time) Looking at the text again can you condense the scene into 4 key words with a still image to accompany it? Perhaps use music to present back?
7. Present the scenes but then invite the group to make predictions about the play. How is this relationship going to develop? What do they think will happen?
Text Extract 1
Context: Pinkie is in the café to retrieve a newspaper competition card left mistakenly by one of his gang. If someone had witnessed the card being left here, this could link his gang to a murder.
Rose: Was it tea you wanted Sir?
Pinkie: I gave the order once.
Rose: There’s been such a rush (she looks at him for a while). Have you lost something? I have to change the cloth again for tea (beat) so if you’ve lost… (beat) there’s nothing there sir…
Pinkie: I haven’t lost anything (beat, he returns her gaze)
Rose: You wouldn’t guess what I found there ten minutes ago…? One of Kolley Kibber’s cards!! The others say I was a fool not to challenge him and get the big prize.
Pinkie: Why didn’t you?
Rose: He wasn’t a bit like the photograph
Pinkie: But did you see him? I suppose you hadn’t looked at him close
Rose: I always look close. I’m new and I don’t want to do anything to offend… (Beat she is staring at him…then….) Oh!! I’m standing here talking when you want a cup of tea!
Pinkie: I suppose you wouldn’t recognise that newspaperman again?
Rose: Oh yes I’d know him, I’ve got a memory for faces (beat)
Pinkie: What’s your name?
Pinkie: When do you get off?
Rose: Half past ten
Text Extract 2
Context: Pinkie is at the end of the pier waiting for Rose. He is looking over the
dark wash of the sea when Spicer arrives with a newspaper.
Spicer: There you are! (Hands him the newspaper) It’s alright. Verdict’s alright. Nobody asked questions. We’re all having a drink to celebrate.
Pinkie: (reading) good. That’s good.
Spicer: No more killing Pinkie. The mob won’t stand for any more killing…
Pinkie: you be careful what you say Spicer! You aren’t milky* are you?
Spicer: I’m not milky…..just that verdict sort of shook us all. We did kill him, Pinkie.
Pinkie: Sometimes after one murder you have to do another….It’s just mopping up, Spicer. You’d better be off and get your drink, Spicer.
Spicer: You not coming?
Pinkie: I’ve got a date.
*milky is a term used by the mob to mean a coward.
Text Extract 3
Context: Ida, a friend of the murdered Fred Hale is trying to get to the truth of what happened to him.
Rose: You again. Go away. I don’t want to talk to you.
Ida: It’s serious. Very serious. I’m going to work on you every hour of the day until I get something.
Rose: I’m busy. I can’t help you. I don’t know anything.
Ida: Don’t be silly now. I’m your friend.
Rose: Why should you care about me?
Ida: I don’t want the innocent to suffer. I only want to save you from that boy. I see you’re crazy about him…but…you don’t under stand…he’s wicked...
Rose: You don’t know a thing.
Ida: He doesn’t care for you. Listen.
Rose: I want him.
Ida: Rose….I’ve never had a child but I’ve taken to you. He doesn’t love you.