Monday, 6 April 2015

'The Cutting of the Cloth' Southwark Playhouse ****

Saville Row is branded worldwide for its high standards of male suits for centuries, in London, and the competition is rife to make a good wage to live happier. Southwark Playhouse’s production of Michael Hastings’ play, ‘The Cutting of the Cloth’ was an interesting story of the training of the tailor where the introduction of the sewing machine instigates conflict between the other colleagues; correspondingly, the performances were brilliantly thrilling.

‘The Cutting of the Cloth’ is situated in a work room at Kilgour. French and Stanbury in 1953 where mid-fifties tailor, Spijak makes it increasingly noticeable that he has a dislike for the sewing machine, which is why he champions the traditional methods of constructing suits. As such, when sixteen year old apprentice, Maurice enters to learn the craft of tailoring, Spijak states that he he must learn through old-fashioned techniques. However, Spijak’s colleagues, Eric and Iris (Abigail Thaw) frustrates Spijak immensely as they outshine him due to the fact that they speedily sew the suits at record pace with the sewing machines that Spijak despises. Eric believes that Spijak is outdated as he’s stuck in his own ways and this escalates tension between them; particularly when Eric is being sent lots of fabrics to make suits for esteemed gentlemen, whereas, Spijak is delivered a minute amount which does aggravate him. Spijak’s daughter, Syndie (Alexis Caley) eases Maurice into Spijak’s demands and over the course of the performance we see Maurice’s development, and we see Spijak becoming slightly parental towards Maurice and even help Maurice finish off a suit that Maurice is constructing for himself.  Competition intensifies between Spijak and Eric when Eric is informed by Spijak’s meddling with completing suits that Eric needs to finish. When Eric is sent an order to make suits for a film during the Christmas/New Year period, it seems an impossible task, but when Spijak is left alone he decides to complete this order during the whole holiday with both traditional and modern methods and the strain leads to his death. Hastings’ narrative is wonderful as you are taken on a journey of three male tailors who have completely different views of their craft, furthermore, we seen the combination of traditional and contemporary forms of tailoring can prove to be a success.

One found the performances by the company of ‘The Cutting of the Cloth’ to be sublime as they capture the somewhat fraught tension that’s magnified through the pressures of deadlines within the workplace.  Andy de la Tour is brilliant as traditionalist tailor, Spijak; chiefly when he takes pleasure in coaching Maurice is his process but in a harsher tone which conveys how tough teaching can be fruitful. Paul Rider is excellent as Spijak;’s ostentatious colleague, Eric; specially when he constantly belittles Spijak’s attitude to the introduction of the sewing machine , additionally the prestious nature when his popularity increases as he makes suits at a quick speed. James El-Sharawy is amazing as youthful apprentice, Maurice; expressly when he has to radially adapt his cutting skills as he is a left hander, but Spijak explains that he has to cut and iron with his right hand and as such he becomes a competent and prevalent tailor.

Tricia Thorns’ direction is pleasant here as she has encapsulated the tailoring industry in the 1950’s with such grandeur that makes me feel pleased by how precise and schooling with tailor, Jack Goode has expanded the spectacular characterisations. Alex Marker’s set designs and Emily Stuart’s costume designs are stunning as the attention to detail is of the best quality as you are absorbed into the world of a Saville Row workroom with ease. Overall, the experience of ‘The Cutting of the Cloth’ was a first-rate performance with awesome production values. 

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