It’s surely the acting that has made Andrew Keatley’s well-crafted family drama such a sell-out success. Although fertile ground, upper-class dysfunction, with a dash of historical perspective, along with dementia and autism, make the play a mix and match of familiar topics. Yet Keatley writes short scenes and characters with textbook precision and the 11-strong cast responds with exciting vigour.
William is the patriarch, testily patching up past mistakes while struggling with his memory – Clive Francis is superb in the role. Jane Asher is perfectly cast as his careful wife (she even gets to comment on a cake). Alexander Hanson and Nick Sampson play his sons, the later stealing the show as the autistic Samuel, while Katie Scarfe brings a family resemblance and carefully understated performance as an estranged daughter. The younger generation is represented by Tom Hanson (it really is a family affair), Amber James and Georgina Beedle – all well delineated roles that bring plenty of humour to savvy, if slightly predictable, observations. In short, this cast should transfer to the West End tomorrow.
Credit to Antony Eden’s direction (tellingly, he’s a performer himself as well) for covering so much ground so quickly. But herein lies a problem. With so much going on it’s difficult to find a focus, any resolution feels pat, and the play lacks momentum. There are plenty of secrets in this family, but very little tension. So, while the characters are three dimensional, we don’t see enough of anyone to really get a satisfying sense of depth. Frustratingly, the solution seems simple – this is a family tree that could do with some pruning.
Until 15 August 2015
Photo by Mark Douet