It’s a layered story that opens with a pub quiz, setting the scene for the world of obsessive competition fanatics, laying a direct trail from that bar to the gameshow hot-seat.
Political turmoil. It’s nothing new. And we are certainly reminded of that here! Set during the troubled Labour Government of the mid to late seventies, This House plays out, for the most part, in the Whips offices, the difference between the two like that of a Gentleman’s club to a working mans pub.
Fracking is something of a contentious subject in West Sussex, so where better to stage Alistair Beaton’s new comedy Fracked! (or: Please don’t use the word). Littered with references to very recent events (including Boris Johnson and Southern trains) you can’t help but feel the playwright is hidden in the theatre somewhere
It’s fitting that in a Chichester Festival Theatre season that
ends with three of Chekhov’s early works they also feature a play so indebted
to his introspective, often melancholic style. Like Chekhov, W. Somerset Maugham has crafted a play
that has a tendency to be fascinating and at times incredibly frustrating but
that certainly deserves attention.
The plot centres on the home of a
country solicitor and the slow disintegration of his family playing out as we
watch. There are some incredibly well thought out performances, not the least
from Stella Gonet as the matriarch whose
perfect manners and visible love for her family hide the fact she is
desperately ill. Her children are all, in some way, broken and she initially
throws herself into looking after them before finally admitting defeat, and
confessing her relief that her days are numbered.
Her son Sidney, blinded in the Great
War thuds about the set, his walking stick bouncing off the furniture as he
hides his distress below a thick layer of sarcasm. It’s a fine depiction by Joseph Kloska whose vacant stares are
often somewhat unsettling and whose disability allows him to say what other
Elsewhere youngest sister Lois is
pursued by an aging lothario while eldest sister Eve shows signs of cracking
under the pressure of caring for her family. Justine Mitchell gives Eva a distinct vulnerability and we get the
impression she was never allowed to grieve for the love she lost to World War
I. Sadly her burgeoning romance with the seemingly disinterested Collie is
incredibly clunky and the long pauses (presumably director Howard Davies intention is to make the situation uncomfortable to
watch) come across almost as if neither actor is quite sure where the scene is
There are moments too when the script
descends into clichéd “stiff upper lip” territory that borders on pastiche.
Thankfully though, such moments
are followed by more dark humour and gloomy contemplation – a tone Maugham
seems much more comfortable with. But the lasting impression is of a play that
isn’t quite worthy of the fine cast performing it!
Sixty or so years ago, Jean Anouilh’s works were popular enough for the BBC to broadcast a recording of him reading one of his plays in the original French. These days he’s hardly a household name, but he still maintains enough popularity for his work to be
readily revisited. Chichester Festival Theatre have regularly produced productions of his plays and this translation, by Jeremy Sams who also directs, was originally put together for a production at the Almeida Theatre way back in 1990.