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Posts Tagged ‘Mixed Marriage’

Mixed Marriage, another play by St John Ervine (he appears to have beatified himself!), was one of my favourite revivals in 2011, also here at the Finborough (where else?). Though not as good a play, this second look at a clearly neglected playwright is well worth it; well staged and beautifully performed.

John Ferguson is about to lose his farm and home when local baddie Henry Witherow forecloses on his mortgage. His daughter offers to marry local shop owner James Caesar (any significance of the name is lost on me) in exchange for him clearing the debt (after John’s exiled brother fails to bail him out). Hannah’s true feelings are clear but her parents and brother Andrew have mixed views. When she changes her mind, she sets her parents against each other but when Witherow assaults her, everyone is united.

Unlike Mixed Marriage, its a bit slow, particularly in the first half, with a lot of the story happening off-stage, making the on-stage events too much of a commentary (this was the case in the earlier play, but a soundscape brought the external in). That said, it’s a proper play which isn’t predictable and leaves you satisfied at the end.

Whatever you think of the play, you can’t fault the committed and passionate performances – not a weak link amongst them – and the delicate traverse staging which enhances the intensity of the emotional experiences being presented.

Another find by the Finborough, and a fine production

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Three short plays by favourite playwright Eugene O’Neil with favourite actor Ruth Wilson in the lovely Hoxton (music) Hall. I was seriously over-excited going in, but deeply satisfied coming out.

This is a perfect match of play(s) and venue. Hoxton Hall is tall but narrow, with a wrought iron balcony on three sides. They’ve put in rickety old chairs for this production, and the multi-tier stage recedes some way, making the performance area look surprisingly big. Richard Kent’s design makes full use of the space, with perfect period costumes, superb lighting by Neil Austin and a six-piece jazz band. The atmosphere of apartments in an early 20th century US city is brilliantly created.

The first play is virtually a monologue by Wilson as a woman whose world is in decline after marrying an unfaithful loser. She takes a short while to get into her stride, but becomes mesmerizing as the story unfolds. The plays are linked by terrific songs from Nicola Walker as the stage is reset. In no time, we’re with prostitute and single mother Rose, suffering with TB and abused by her lover / pimp. She’s rescued by neighbour and bank robber Tim, but not for long. The third play takes us to a black family where the mother is dying and son Dreamy is on the run. He has to choose between dying mom’s bedside and escape.

Though best known for his lengthy epics, O’Neil is able to pack a lot of drama into these three short plays which, even with musical interludes, add up to less than 90 minutes. I’ve had my eye on director Sam Yates since a pair of superb productions at the Finborough in 2011-12 (Cornelius & Mixed Marriage) and his staging of the first two of these is outstanding. Ruth Wilson, wonderful in the same two plays, directs the third very well. There are two excellent performances from Simon Coombs, both criminals, both on the run, and Zubin Varla is great as Steve in the second play, and plays a mean sax too.

They’ve taken over the whole ground floor, with a period design bar named after O’Neil’s sometime NYC haunt. I don’t know who Found Productions are, but they are to be congratulated on a magnificent evening of drama and first class theatrical craftsmanship. Brilliant.

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