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Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Fairbank’

Playwrights often risk tarnishing their legacy by producing inferior work in later years, and this was very much the case with Sam Shepherd, who died just two years ago…..but we hadn’t seen this until now.

It’s a two-hander between old friends Ames and Byron on Ames’ front porch. Byron has come at his friend’s request to provide support at a difficult time. They go back a long way and they reminisce, drinking way too much bourbon, as they wait for the eclipse due that night. The alcohol brings with it some conflict, as alcohol has a habit of doing. It’s very much a play about friendship and seems like a ‘signing off’ play, with echoes of Beckett and Pinter.

It’s beautifully staged by Alexander Lass on an evocative set by Holly Pigott, with great lighting by Jai Morjaria. It should be seen for the performances alone – Christopher Fairbank and Joseph Marcell, both on fine form. It’s a gentle, reflective hour which brought back memories of the many Shepherd plays that have enthralled me. A must for Shepherd fans.

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Another day, another allegorical play, but this time a brilliant one, staged and performed to perfection. Mike Bartlett proves himself to be as much the master of the epic as he is the miniature masterpiece.

Audrey is widowed, with a daughter in her early twenties and a new husband, Paul. She lost her son to war in the Middle East. She has a successful retail business, but decides to escape to the country, buying her deceased uncle’s former home Albion, with its huge garden, set on restoring it to its former glory using the plans of its famous garden designer. She’s self-obsessed, self-centred and domineering and she drives away her daughter, best friend and her son’s partner. Only her put-upon husband remains loyal. She also upsets the old retainers, neighbours and villagers along the way.

It’s an allegory of recent history in England’s green and pleasant land (Albion) and has way more depth than that brief description suggests. The Almeida has been reconfigured with the audience wrapped around an oval garden rimmed by a plant border and dominated by a tree; another extraordinary design from Miriam Buether. When the season changes, the border is transformed, itself a coup d’theatre, as is the end of the first half. Though its entertaining and often funny, it is above all deeply thought-provoking.

Audrey is a great part for an actress and Victoria Hamilton is sensationally good, but she’s surrounded by a host of other fine performances, notably Vinette Robinson as the son’s grieving partner Anna, Helen Schlesinger as best friend Katherine and Charlotte Hope as daughter Zara. Christopher Fairbank and Margot Leicester are lovely as the gardener / cleaner husband and wife and there’s an excellent nuanced performance as young neighbour Gabriel from Luke Thrallon.

We are so lucky to have so many good contemporary playwrights. Lets hope we don’t lose Mike Bartlett to TV after his success with Dr Foster. Only days ago I was worrying that some were given high profile stages too soon. Ironically, this would probably work on the Olivier stage where the other allegorical play Saint George & the Dragon doesn’t, but it’s more intimate at the Almeida where it engaged and moved me deeply.

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