This review was originally written for The Public Review.
The location of the theatre in the cellar of a pub is strangely apt for this production even though it is set in a penthouse apartment of a crumbling tower block. The father and head of the family was the architect who designed the building. However, his vision has not been appreciated, and he has made a self-imposed withdrawal from the outside world. Following the death of their mother, he confines his younger daughter and son to the apartment while the elder daughter goes out to work during the day. The controlling father is now blind and on his deathbed and their lives are interrupted when a doctor is invited to the apartment out of concerns of the elder daughter.
The play explores the possible realm and extent of the dysfunctionality of a family and how parents affect the lives of their offspring. The text penetrates deeper than mere upbringing and further explores the influence of the father on beliefs, ideology and heredity. Although the play can be disturbing at times, all the elements are perfectly plausible especially in light of recent news stories. It also makes distinctions among the different psychological damages suffered by the daughters and son and illustrates how each of them is affected in his or her own way. However, one minor problem with the play is that it does not offer any real resolution to the psychological challenges or closure for every character. Nonetheless, despite the dramatic themes, there are plenty of lighter moments which make for an entertaining performance.
The staging is a simply decorated and carpeted living room and the claustrophobic nature of the theatre in the converted cellar adds to the oppressiveness of the text. The direction by Will Maynard keeps the tantrums and psychological manifestations in check as it could easily get out of hand and become melodramatic. However, there is a certain flatness and lack of tension to the evening which may be due to the technical difficulties with the sound suffered this particular night. Most of the atmospheric backing music and effects were missing. The play gives considerable scope for the actors and the cast does a good job with it. Timothy Allsop has a demanding role as the son dealing with mood swings and mental issues and bringing grounded believability to what could be an implausible character. Francesca Wilding plays the younger sister who retains a certain hope and wonderment in the world and that shows through very well.
This is a very competent production of an interesting play dealing with a difficult subject and everyone involved should be very proud of the outcome.
Runs until 2nd June