Posts Tagged ‘Anne Downie’

At last! A neglected 20th century British play / playwright at the National. Gritty social realism – just up my street.

The opening is terrific. Ten windows on two floors of the facade of a Glasgow tenement open and their female occupants start berating their children in the street. Brilliant.

We then move inside Bunny Christie’s finely detailed building, which manages to create the claustrophobia of the two rooms (and stairwell) where the action takes place and, by showing parts of four other rooms, the on-top-of-each-other community life that tenements created.

We’re with the Morrison family and the play centres around wife / mother Maggie, superbly played by an almost unrecognisable Sharon Small. Husband John (Robert Cavanah, also very good) is jobless and useless. We have eldest son Alec and his demanding and devious wife Isa, back home because their tenement has collapsed! Daughter Jenny has gone off and found herself a sugar daddy and son Bertie is hospitalised with TB, brought on my the desolate conditions. Granny’s staying (a lovely performance from Anne Downie), spinster sister Lily visits to dish out support and criticism in equal measure and there’s a trio of neighbours like those in Love on the Dole and the snug at the Rovers Return in the 60’s – cracking performances from Karen Dunbar, Lindy Whiteford and Isabelle Joss.

Not a barrel off laughs you might think, but there is much irony and humour – a scene on Christmas Eve with the neighbours popping in for tea and cake is an absolute gem. It takes a while to attune to the thick Glaswegian, but when you do there’s a richness to the language which adds much. Ena Lamont Stewart’s play has its weaknesses, with the first half too much ‘slice of life’ and not enough storytelling (and a bit long), but Josie Rourke’s production is wonderfully evocative and completely vindicates the decision to revive it.

More 20th century BRITISH drama at the NT please!

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