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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Clothier’

French playwright Florian Zeller’s only other play to be produced here, also translated by Christopher Hampton, was called The Father, who had dementia. In this one The Mother is an empty nester whose mental health is deteriorating. It’s just as clever, though stylistically a little too close, and just as insightful.

In eighty minutes, five or six scenes are each repeated twice, with changes. The Mother is missing her son and leads an unfulfilled life without him (she also has a daughter but her relationship with her is clearly nowhere near as strong). Her husband arrives home, she serves breakfast to him & her son (who has returned during the night), she tries to persuade her son to go out with her, his girlfriend arrives, she’s in hospital after an overdose…….but each scene in a pair has a different outcome and you don’t know what is real and what is in her head. Like The Father, it’s disorientating, sometimes uncomfortable, occasionally shocking and at times funny.

It’s set in a rectangular white room with white furniture, which creates a clinical laboratory-like feel. The scenes are short (but don’t seem as short as The Father), sometimes broken by a curtain and sometimes a light fade. Gina McKee is superb as Anna, changing mood continually, and has excellent support from Richard Clothier as her husband, William Postlethwaite as her son and Frances McNamee as his girlfriend.

It’s very much a companion piece for The Father. I liked it, but now I’d very much like to see a different side of Zeller, who is clearly a bit of a find.

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I’d love to report that Ed Hall’s first production as artistic director of Hampstead Theatre is a stonking success. His appointment at this beleaguered venue, which has never truly arrived in its new building,  is very welcome indeed, but I can’t lie – Enlightenment is at best OK.

Shelagh Stephenson isn’t a very prolific playwright but she has written some interesting plays, notably The Memory of Water. Her subject this time is the disappearance of a son whilst back-packing, using this story to explore themes of connectedness and unease in the post-09/11 world. What you get is a tale which is part thriller part mystery which doesn’t really go anywhere but passes a couple of hours you don’t necessarily regret but you won’t be talking about soon after leaving the theatre.

It’s fairly intriguing and occasionally funny, though a lot of the dialogue seems forced and clumsy, as if she really hadn’t believed in her own characters. Francis O’Connor’s design is outstanding – a minimalist home which easily morphs into other locations like an airport and a park with a few props and excellent projections on the walls and ceiling.  

The acting honours belong to newcomer Tom Weston-Jones, though he’s lucky to have the most interesting character. Julie Graham and Richard Clothier were unconvincing as the parents and Polly Kemp’s psychic and Daisy Beaumont’s documentary maker were mere caricatures. Paul Freeman makes a very believable politician / grandfather.

The rest of Hall’s  first season looks promising, though allowing three writers to direct their own work and letting Katie Mitchell, the queen of pretension, loose in the new studio may prove foolhardy!

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