Withnail and I at Birmingham Rep review – ‘went to the theater by mistake’

Withnail & I is a long-time cult favorite in our house. Written in 1987 by Bruce Robinson, this is the first time it has been adapted for the stage – and was directed by Bruce himself.

And double Olivier Award winner Sean Foley, artistic director of Birmingham Rep, was certainly the man to direct. From the live band on stage, which played Hendrix, The Beatles and Procol Harum (King Curtis), to the outstanding sets and seamless changes, this was a beautifully crafted production.

Set in the late sixties, Withnail and Me tells the story of two unlikely friends and out-of-work actors – the flamboyant and hard-drinking Withnail and the shy and contemplative Marwood – who live in squalor in a London flat until they make up their minds. to go on holiday to a cottage in the Lake District. But it all goes horribly wrong, leading to the highly quotable line “I went on vacation by mistake!”

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That’s the key to why this movie is so beloved, is that it’s so quotable. In fact, the guys behind us were quoting it so loudly that they were told to shut up by an usher. It’s one of those movies that if you love it, you probably love it until the end.

And that’s what made it such a hard nut to crack. He was always going to get a good crowd, but that crowd was clearly a mix of people who had never seen him before, sitting alongside those who knew him word for word. How does he keep everyone happy?

Adonis Siddique (Marwood) and Robert Sheehan (Withnail) in Withnail & I at Birmingham REP(Image: Manuel Harlan)

There were clear moments for us, namely drug dealer Danny, played by Adam Young (TV’s Sex Education), who completely stole the show with his brilliant portrayal of the wild-eyed stoner who threatens Withnail with the ’embalmer’ and drugs. rats in the apartment. We also enjoyed Malcolm Sinclair’s highly convincing performance as Uncle Monty, who lends the pair their holiday cottage and tries to take advantage of Marwood, played well by Adonis Siddique.