Newport Playgoers’ The Handyman, Dolman Theatre, Newport

THE Newport Playgoers’ production of The Handyman has a rather idyllic beginning, So, an intrusion by Scotland Yard’s War Crimes Squad is the last thing anyone expects as banker Julian Field and his wife Cressida sit on their sunny Sussex terrace drinking wine. The couple are shocked to learn that their trusted handyman and long-standing family friend Romka, a Ukrainian, may have been involved with the slaughter of 817 Jews in Ukraine in 1941.

As Ronald Harwood’s gripping drama unfolds, the audience are left to decide if the elderly handyman was guilty of any such crime.

I was unsure if the subject matter of the production would make interesting viewing for two hours, but my concerns were put aside as the drama unfolded, first in the garden and then in the finely executed interrogation scenes in the interview room at Scotland Yard.

Pages from the Newport Playgoers programme of The Handyman from May 2007.

Russell Walker delivers a strong character as Romka, encompassing passion and emotion, while Christopher Hill gives a pompous and blustering performance as Julian.

Ruth Barton steals the show as Cressida, slipping between comedy and drama with ease, and there is a convincing portrayal from Rhian Mitchell as Romka’s lawyer Marian Stone.

The play is food for thought as it challenges people’s perceptions on war crimes and the Holocaust.

The Handyman plays at the Dolman Theatre until 19 May.

  • ARCHIVED: March 2020. Review by Andy Howells.