Pursuing this excellent venue’s tactic of rediscovering plays, director Benjamin Whitrow offers a fine revival of a well-written and intriguing text from 1957, which is enjoying its first London production since its premiere. Writer Robert Bolt, of A Man For All Seasons fame, is the author of this quietly profound domestic drama of dreams and divorce.
Jim Cherry wants an orchard like the one he grew up on, and drives his family mad with dreams of it. It’s an obsession fuelled by a love of scrumpy cider that’s so bad as to be called a “hallucination” at one point. Liam McKenna does well to show us his character’s instability in this difficult lead role. But will his dream be the death of this salesman?
Our sympathies swing against the charismatic Jim as his delusions and drunkenness increase. Still, his children’s disdain, well evoked by James Musgrave and Hannah Morrish, is disconcerting. Bolt is precise in his depiction of intergenerational conflict, even if plummy accents raise a smile. More problematic is the kids’ flirtatious friend Carol, with whom everyone falls in love. Phoebe Sparrow portrays this ambiguous cool cat who toys with any mice tempted to play with her.
It’s Jim’s wife Isobel who becomes the centre of the play, with credit due to Catherine Kanter’s skill in the role. A mercurial character, possibly a little too admirable or patient to be believed, more time might have be given her mood swings by Whitrow, but Kanter commands attention as the extent of her suffering dawns on the audience. Isobel’s “bones are tender” with the continual pressure of her husband’s “cardboard prospects” and she grows into a powerful figure who, it is hoped will be the one to blossom.
Until 20 December 2015
Photo by Gabriela Restelli
Nick Payne’s great new play Wanderlust is about love and sex – the absence and surfeit of both, the differences between them, and where the two overlap. The Royal Court has spotted great new writing yet again. This play is very funny and deeply moving.
Tim and his school friend Michelle begin to experiment with sex as a favour (unrequited love for him makes her oblige his anxious curiosity). James Musgrave and Isabella Laughland are instantly believable as the confused teens. The great thing here is that, unlike most 15 year olds on stage these days, they aren’t violent or mentally ill. They are touchingly real as a result. We really hope they don’t develop the same problems as their elders.
Tim’s father Alan is more desperate for sex than his teenage son. Forced abstinence has resulted in a strain that Stuart McQuarrie performs with endearing charm. Even overweight middle-aged men need a sex life (trust me on this) but, given the chance to explore his darker side, he can’t even remember to take his socks off.
Alan’s attachment to hosiery might explain his wife’s lack of interest in the bedroom, but Joy turns out to be aptly named. Dutifully exploring her sexuality to save her marriage results in a transformation Pippa Hayward achieves quite miraculously. From being, “tired, worn out and uptight” she becomes a radiant, sexy woman hoping to start again.
Payne has a refreshing take on the glamour that surrounds sex and youth. We don’t have to put up with kitchen sinks or the fabulously wealthy: his milieu is the middle classes. The humour isn’t gentle and can be painfully embarrassing, but this writing has a great deal of heart. Yet the play avoids sentimentality. While a tear comes easily to the eye, the emotions are complex and engaging. This is a tender tale of socks and sex that is not to be missed.
Until 9 October 2010
Photo by Sheila Burnett
Written 18 September 2010