Sign up for our weekly newsletter
Metronome Sessions

The Retirement of Tom Stevens

12 March 06 words: Adrian Bhagat
Hasn't every man at some point vowed not to become like his father? And failed?
All cast in The Retirement of Tom Stevens
Hasn't every man at some point vowed not to become like his father? And failed? This is the problem facing Richard Stevens.

Having escaped his fiercely patriarchal father, Tom, by moving to London, he returns for a family Christmas still full of anger and bitterness, particularly at the way his father treated his mother. Tom's bullying and selfishness provoke arguments, but nothing angers Richard more than seeing how similar he is to his father. However, the more he rebels against him and criticises his character, the more alike his father he becomes.

The alternative for Richard is to be like his younger brother, Dave, a mild-mannered hotel manager who waits on his father hand and foot. Dave has learnt to forgive and put his childhood behind him but in the process has become a doormat. Hence Richard is trapped between two equally unpalatable alternatives.

The ideas of nature and nurture are being explored here. Tom was bullied in his job and came home to take it out on his family. Has Richard become a bully because of his upbringing or is it because he shares his father's blood? Tom wants Richard to follow in his footsteps by taking life by the horns regardless of how much hurt he causes. As Richard becomes bolder in confronting his father, Tom's respect for him grows which angers him further.

Elaine Glover as Susan in The Retirement of Tom StevensThis is the first stage play from William Ivory, a well-respected screen writer who grew up in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, where the play is set. Considering it has the dullest title of any play, ever, it is gripping and complex. The whole piece is very tightly written; Apart from the unnecessary prologue, there isn't a single moment on stage wasted. The characters are so believable and well-drawn that we get the uncomfortable sensation that we really are intruding on a family row. The cast are all magnificent and you can feel the emotions that smoulder behind each character's face. Particular mention must go to Simon Merrells for his portrayal of Richard's struggle with his own contradictions.


This play is a truly great achievement and you are unlikely to see anything to match it in the theatre for a long time. A moving, poignant and excellently executed work that is proud of its local setting and yet explores universal themes.


The Retirement of Tom Stevens plays at Lakeside Arts Centre until Saturday 25th March

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now