Friday, 27 March 2015

REVIEW = The Cutting Of The Cloth - Southwark Playhouse

Kate Gould


WHAT happens when machines take over previously specialist crafts is the subject of the play Cutting Of The Cloth, now on at the Southwark Playhouse.
Written by Michael Hastings, who brought us Tom and Viv, the play is set in the 1950s and concerns two men who work for a Saville Row bespoke tailor but who have very different ideas about how to work.
Eric (Paul Rider) represents the modern way of working. He uses machines to sew his suits and with the money he earns can indulge in his passion for opera.
Polish-born Spijak (A brilliant Andy De La Tour) on the other hand represents the old guard of mastser craftsman and prefers to tailor each suit by hand, working all hours to do so. And because it takes him twice as long to finish a suit compared to Eric he earns significantly less.
Throughout, the pair bicker with each other and their women skivvies, known as kippers, and argue passionately about who's way of working is the best.
Into this heady mix comes teenage apprentice Maurice who is assigned to work with Spijak. He is encouraged to sew until his fingers bleed and to learn to respect the traditional tailoring trade.
Although the acting is top notch, it is the set which is the real star of the show.
The attention to detail is astonishing. Not only are the tables strewn with needles, thread, bobbins, tape measures, scissors and material, the actors actually spent time learning how to sew for the piece.
You get a real sense of the smells, the claustrophobic atmosphere in the almost windowless basement room and the harsh conditions in which they are working as well as the feel of the cloth when bastes - packets of material - are hurled downstairs waiting to be stitched together.
It is fascinating to see the process and to see the relationships between the five characters.
Ultimately it is a sad tale for Spijak - although there are moments of laugh out loud humour - but one of hope for the future, where dedication and a respect for the tradition of working hard to achieve results pay dividends.

Cutting Of The Cloth is on at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway until April 4. Tickets cost £18. Visit or call the box office on 020 7407 0234.

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