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Posts Tagged ‘Fly Davis’

I’ve rarely left the theatre of late feeling totally satisfied by a new play. Until this. The pandemic has made the wait five rather than three years for the second in David Eldridge’s relationships trilogy, but it was well worth the wait. Hopefully, it won’t take as long for the third – End? – as I for one am already full of anticipation.

Like Beginning before it, it’s a two-hander, played in real time over 100 minutes during a sleepless night in Maggie & Gary’s Essex home. Gary’s trajectory from market boy to City slicker is like many of his generation from Essex. It’s enabled him to afford the six-bedroom home, private prep school for daughter Annabel and holidays abroad, at a price. Maggie was late to motherhood, after problems conceiving, and has only recently returned to her career. This should be a success story in so many ways.

It’s a lot more than this personal story, though. It covers universal themes, things so many experience in midlife, many important and prescient issues, as Maggie & Gary’s marriage unravels before your eyes. They include the cost of success and the price (in fulfilment) of motherhood. I found myself connected and emotionally engaged with these, which seem to have become even more urgent during the pandemic, with many people focusing so much more on the work-life balance. If only Maggie and Gary had.

Though they are both regulars on our TV screens, we don’t see enough of Clare Rushbrook and Daniel Ryan on stage. Clare has already provided a cinematic highlight this year with Ali & Ava, now she provides a stage highlight to match it, a woman late to motherhood struggling to bond with her child and achieve the fulfilment her career once provided. Daniel is on an equally captivating roller coaster ride from frustration and despair to helplessness and rage with a character that’s high on ambition, but low on emotional intelligence. These are such visceral, committed performances you can’t help but empathise with their characters. The same creative team – director Polly Findlay and designer Fly Davis – handle the material with the same sensitivity.

You could never have the same intense, deeply rewarding experience as this in any other art form. It’s why I go to the theatre. You’d be completely bonkers to miss it.

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American playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins continues to impress, with this play the best of the three we’ve seen here. I’m vey fond of family dramas and American playwrights gave us the best in the 20th Century, from Eugene ONeill through Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller to Sam Shepherd. Now Jacobs-Jenkins gives us a contemporary one.

It’s set in an Arkansas plantation home where the head of the Lafayette family has recently died. His children, Toni, Bo and Frank, Bo’s wife Rachel, Frank’s girlfriend River, Toni’s son Rhys and Bo & Rachel’s children Cassidy and Ainsley have come for the auction of the house and sale of its contents. Their dad was a hoarder, so they first have to attempt to declutter and in doing so come across some photos which, if they are their dad’s, mean he wasn’t the man they thought he was.

Bo is a seemingly successful businessman who has apparently been financing his father’s final years, Toni is a single mother who’s been providing more practical support. Frank, now called Franz, is the black sheep, last to leave home and the longest to be dependent on their father, with a history of drink, drugs and worse. No-one knew where he was for many years until now. He’s under the spell of new age River and has ostensibly come to ask for forgiveness. Emotions run high, a whole load of skeletons leave cupboards and secrets and lies run amok. There’s even an air of a ghostly presence.

It’s superbly written and expertly plotted, with crackling dialogue. Ola Ince’s production is edgy and atmospheric, with loud sudden scene breaks that I found heightened the tension, though others jumped and / or were irritated by them. Fly Davis’ faded mansion is superb; the stage management deserve an award for decluttering it in the interval. Anna Watson’s excellent lighting and Donato Wharton’s atmospheric sound design play a key role. The diverse siblings are superbly characterised by Steven Mackintosh, Edward Hogg and especially Monica Dolan with another of her star turns. The rest of the ensemble is outstanding.

A great evening of drama from a playwright who, at only 34, the same age as Tennessee Williams was when A Doll’s House hit Broadway, has already delivered six plays, and based on the three we’ve seen is clearly going to have a monumental career The only remaining questions are – when will we see the other three and what’s next?

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