Friday, 28 May 2010


27/5/10, Lyric, Hammersmith

A very curious play, full of odd moments, monologues, loose ends and things that didn't wholly make sense. It's nearing the end of the world. There is a precise time for an asteroid to hit earth; society is running down, people are downing tools to return to their homes. The focus is on a dysfunctional family of brothers from a Yorkshire farm and their mother. One brother is dying of cancer and wants them all to gather before he dies and the world ends. There is a moving scene early on in which his mother bathes him in a tin bath. There is a final scene in which all the surviving participants (the cancer-stricken brother has died by now) gather on a hillside, all standing to face the audience, and await the end.

But there were some very peculiar bits. The oldest brother looked old enough to be the youngest's grandfather, and for a long while it wasn't clear that they were siblings since the younger referred to the older as "Uncle Jake". (The difference in age was explained away in a later scene, not altogether convincingly.) Different scenes and characters seemed to belong to different plays. This may have had something to do with the fact that the play was a collaboration between three different writers: David Eldridge (who adapted Festen for the stage), Robert Holman and Simon Stephens (whose monologue-driven Punk Rock and Pornography we have recently seen). Perhaps they all threw into the pot whatever they happened to be working on at the time and stirred, waiting to see what emerged.

Some performances stronger than others: Ann Mitchell (we saw her with Simon Callow years ago in a play about a butcher at Southwark Playhouse: he stripped naked in that so she's used to handling middle aged male nudity. Callow was in the audience the night we went) was impressive as the mother. Others had difficulty getting the right tone with the sometimes naturalistic, sometimes poetic language.

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