PATRICK MARMION reviews The Southbury Child

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The Southbury Child (Festival Theatre, Chichester)

Verdict: Facetious however touching


Who would not need to see The Crown‘s Alex Jennings taking part in a small-town vicar?

With his form, patrician face, he appears to be like heaven despatched for the function of the Reverend David Highland. 

Yet in Stephen Beresford’s amusing, and ultimately unhappy new play, we’re additionally meant to think about his Devonshire pastor as a troubled boozer and a sexual philanderer.

His even larger drawback, although, is the mom of a lifeless baby who desires to have Disney balloons at her daughter’s funeral. She longs to have fun her daughter’s brief life; he feels dying must be regarded straight within the eye.

Either manner, I could not consider such a benign previous stick would select to take Custer’s Last Stand on a difficulty like this. Inevitably, his laborious line turns the neighborhood towards him — however it additionally struck me as too far out of character to be credible.

Who wouldn¿t want to see The Crown¿s Alex Jennings playing a small-town vicar? With his kind, patrician face, he looks heaven sent for the role of the Reverend David Highland

Who would not need to see The Crown’s Alex Jennings taking part in a small-town vicar? With his form, patrician face, he appears to be like heaven despatched for the function of the Reverend David Highland

Beresford has been a lot feted since his Chekhovian drama The Last Of The Haussmans was staged on the National Theatre in 2012. 

Had he revealed a higher-stakes private dilemma lurking behind Highland’s resolution, or supplied a extra in-depth examination of the sad vicar’s conscience, it might need labored.

Instead, his Alan Bennettish dialogue lets David off the hook, with oodles of very English irony and witticisms that defuse the strain (Bennett, against this, has at all times been cautious of such overtly emotional materials).

Jennings matches non secular unease with flashes of anguish, regardless of reaching too typically for an inexpensive Scotch or a wry comment. In specific, he rues his failure to look at the primary rule of ecclesiastical legislation: ‘Don’t f*** the flock.’

Phoebe Nicholls has the persistence of a saint as his spouse, someway holding the family collectively; whereas Jo Herbert, as his sexually pissed off trainer daughter, dutifully picks up the slack in his parish obligations.

It’s left to David’s adopted daughter (Racheal Ofori) — a black, militant atheist — to be extra facetious, although at occasions (akin to her gag about how she has the gown sense of a Lithuanian hooker) she feels like an authorial voice.

Jack Greenlees, because the homosexual, pin-up curate, ticks the remaining bins of church and sexual politics. The locals are mainly represented by Josh Finan, because the cheerful thicko brother of the deceased baby.

Amusingly, he’s wont to ask deep, existential questions; but he is additionally given to nasty troublemaking, for which he is by no means held to account.

Thanks to certainly one of his pranks within the second half, Beresford’s plot veers away from what must be the highly effective story of the titular baby. Indeed, Sarah Twomey as that kid’s mom, who must be the play’s ethical and emotional conscience, is lowered to an awkwardly poignant facet present.

Despite these flaws, there’s a lot to take pleasure in on this imaginative and prescient of a rural neighborhood, with its annual pageant blessing the city’s river for security and fecundity (echoes of Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem).

Sir Nicholas Hytner’s breezy manufacturing skips over the underlying ache. And Mark Thompson’s set of a flagstone vicarage kitchen with a Norman church rearing up past is a good consolation to the attention.

But with fewer gags and a much less facetious tone, it might have been a greater play: capturing the very actual ache of a Church and nation which — as Beresford has noticed — are within the throes of extraordinarily uncomfortable adjustments.

From July 1, after its run in Chichester, The Southbury Child will transfer to The Bridge Theatre in London SE1.

Vibrant historical past lesson in reward of lady energy

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World (Theatre Royal, Stratford East)


Verdict: Six for six-year-olds

This present is a celebration of lady energy over the centuries — in neon color. It’s a Six for six-year-olds, a herstory lesson and a name to arms: do not be afraid to do what’s proper, do not be fragile like a flower however fragile like a bomb.

Talented playwright/lyricist Chris Bush places a younger lady on the centre of Kate Pankhurst’s image e-book. Jade is left behind on a college journey, alone in a museum hailing heroines from air, land and sea. She is taken up — in each sense — by aviator Amelia Earhart, persuaded to develop her sense and sensibility by Jane Austen, and thrown within the deep finish by Olympic swimmer Gertrude Ederle.

Emmeline Pankhurst — a distant relative of the creator — reminds her that with solely half as many ladies as males in Parliament, the work will not be completed.

I’m nonetheless singing because of Miranda Cooper who offers the present the poptastic sound of her hits for the Sugababes and Girls Aloud.

But it isn’t all upbeat. In a very poignant second, Rosa Parks hugs Jade and Anne Frank, telling them that every one she did was refuse to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man. Yet it modified the world.

Georgina Brown 

A Doll’s House, Part 2 (Donmar Warehouse, London)


Verdict: Insufferable

That Is Not Who I Am (Royal Court Theatre, London)


Verdict: Hoax

A Doll’s House, Part 2 is without doubt one of the most condescending theatrical homilies I’ve ever had the misfortune to endure. American author Lucas Hnath has deigned to revisit Henrik Ibsen’s Nineteenth-century Norwegian melodrama a few lady who walks out on her husband and kids, and deal with it as a possibility to hold forth on the establishment of marriage.

He begins by having Ibsen’s revered feminist heroine Nora (Noma Dumezweni), return to her husband Torvald (Brian F. O’Byrne) to demand that he log off on the divorce he promised 15 years earlier.

But her ultimatum will not be delivered till she has first lectured his bewildered housekeeper (June Watson) on how and why marriage destroys ladies’s lives.

She then activates her nonetheless traumatised husband and explains to him, yet again, why he’s a hopeless human being and why their marriage was rotten to the core.

Any try and interrupt her expostulation is greeted with an incredulous scowl. Even her grown-up daughter (Patricia Allison) is patronised as a not-yet-fully-formed ‘mini me’.

For millennia, drama has acquainted heroes and heroines with their shortcomings. Not right here. This 95-minute serving to of pedagogical self-fortification feels no less than thrice that size, because of Dumezweni’s Nora.

Her ultimatum is not delivered until she has first lectured his bewildered housekeeper (June Watson) on how and why marriage destroys women¿s lives

Her ultimatum will not be delivered till she has first lectured his bewildered housekeeper (June Watson) on how and why marriage destroys ladies’s lives

She is so supremely self-important that not even the prospect of jail or penury affronts her. She is immune from theatrical prosecution.

Pompously reporting her byzantine love life, her condescending coup de grace is to reject the divorce she’s been demanding all alongside on the grounds that she now considers it… condescending!

Condescension, although, is structural to James Macdonald’s manufacturing, from the second the roof protecting the stage is solemnly raised to disclose a set of… a couple of chairs on a crusty orange ground.

The manufacturing additionally combines Hnath’s tuneless fashionable profanities with starchy interval costumes, so he can be sure you speak all the way down to the benighted previous within the language of four-letter enlightenment.

Personally, I might find little interest in any of the story’s potential outcomes bar one: getting dwelling.

Meanwhile one other haute-bourgeois theatrical salon, the Royal Court, has very practically completed the tough activity of disappearing up its personal fundament.

The event is a hoax of a brand new play by Lucy Kirkwood, which creates a frisson of hazard by pretending to be a play by ‘Dave Davison’ about on-line id theft.

Kirkwood appears to assume it might be hilarious to current her fictional docu-drama a few younger couple falling right into a void of isolation and deep state paranoia as an undercover probe.

The play charts the course of the younger couple from their assembly, in a restaurant in 2011, to transferring in collectively and having a child, earlier than his conspiracy principle posts on YouTube throughout lockdown result in them each being…murdered.

The complete set-up is totally phoney and essentially the most actual factor within the present is a scene throughout lockdown during which the couple wash their groceries.

Jake Davies, because the mendacious younger handyman, is inscrutably nonchalant, however the present’s best asset is the at all times watchable Siena Kelly because the younger geriatric nurse. She is a fizzy younger actor who goes, by way of childbirth, from carefree flirt to radicalised neurotic.

Priyanga Burford will get the hole activity of taking part in the author-narrator who maintains the pretence that this is a crucial and harmful investigation.

Sadly, the world is stuffed with genuinely essential and harmful investigations that Kirkwood may higher have pursued.

Having tricked us into the theatre, director Lucy Morrison takes the wise precaution of not offering an interval within the two-hour deposition, to thwart the viewers scarpering.

Patrick Marmion

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