Brighton Rock... in Brighton!

It's easy to dismiss Pinkie in Brighton Rock as a psychopath.

Sarah Middleton as Rose and Jacob James Beswick as Pinkie
Sarah Middleton as Rose and Jacob James Beswick as Pinkie

Jacob James Beswick plays him when Brighton Rock tours to Brighton Theatre Royal from Tuesday to Saturday, March 6-10. He believes his job is to persuade us that Pinkie is rather more complicated than that.

“I didn’t really know Brighton Rock beforehand,” says Jacob. “I had heard about the film with Helen Mirren in it. I didn’t know any more than that really, but I got the script and I spoke to family and friends and they were immediately excited.

“I read the script, and I just thought that Pinkie was so complex. He is a really interesting character to play, especially with the rise of feminism and with the rise of people talking about toxic masculinity. To me, he is the living embodiment of toxic masculinity. He is addicted to power. He doesn’t like to find himself in vulnerable situations. He treats women quite badly. But actually, underneath he is actually quite a sensitive boy who is just trying to live his life in the framework of what has been set out for him as a working man in the 1930s who finds himself involved in the gang culture.”

Yes, Pinkie is vicious.

“But as an actor, I think you have got to search for the humanity within him. There is talk about him being a psychopath, and he definitely has psychopathic tendencies, but you could also look at him as a young boy who has been disenfranchised, and I don’t think it helps just to put that label on him. It just doesn’t feel right. I am searching for something within him that means that I can tell the story from a really empathetic place but without actually diluting the viciousness of the character.

“There is also a lot of talk about religion in the piece and a lot of talk about him feeling damned, and also a lot of talk about the possibility of redemption. And I think that for anybody, whatever your frame of mind, to be talking about feeling damned suggests a trauma going on… and I think that has got something to do with his class and also with the fact that he is a very devout catholic.

“I think if he had been brought up in different circumstances, he could have been a good man. He is a good leader. He is very impulsive, and to an extent he is very charismatic and also he must be reasonably intelligent to be planning the things that he plans.”

Jacob got the part in mid-November, auditioning while he was in New York with the play People, Places And Things: “We did it at the National and then transferred to the West End and then transferred to New York. We were in New York for two or three months. It was great. New York is pretty constantly exciting. We had a gala night, and there was just a constant stream of celebrities.”