Written for Time Out
John Osborne described his first play as ‘a melodrama about a poetic Welsh loon’. I couldn’t have put it better myself. ‘The Devil Inside Him’ is an awkward mixture of rep thriller, existentialist rant and purple verse, but director Hannah Joss gives a coherent voice to Osborne’s demons.
Huw Prosser is an individual completely out of step with his community. Stiflingly brought up in a puritanical Welsh village, Prosser’s tentative attempts at expression are misunderstood as pornography. In the ensuing hysteria the imagined devil inside him becomes real as he is pushed to violence.
In an emotionally taut cast, Ralph Aiken’s overwrought Prosser feels caricatured: all jitters and rolling eyes. But this initial extremity makes Aiken’s transition from nervy fool to lucid murderer even more startling. It is here we finally see what was to come as Osborne’s contempt for society is displayed with the blistering clarity of Jimmy Porter.
In a play with training wheels on, Prosser’s journey almost mirrors Osborne’s; what begins as the work of an angry young man obsessed with valley poetry ends giving us a tantalising insight into the source of his infamous fury.