Finborough Theatre, London – until 2o May 2017
Late Company is a modern tale of domestic devastation. A compelling Canadian drama that sees Debora and Michael Shaun-Hastings (she’s an artist, he an MP) struggling to cope with the suicide of their tormented teenage son Joel, their only child, some months previously. Set around the dinner table of the bereaved parents, their guests for the evening are Bill and Tamara Dermot together with their son Curtis, a peer of Joel’s at school and the ringleader of the bullies who had taunted him to his death.
The one act work lasts for an intense 70 minutes that pass with excruciating speed. The bereaved grief of the Shaun-Hastings is palpable in so many different ways – Where Todd Boyce‘s Michael has plausibly attempted to get on with his life, to the extent of concealing aspects of Joel’s difficulties from his wife, Lucy Robinson‘s Debora is still raw with pain.
Much like King Lear’s final moments, Robinson breathes a recognisable howl into the unimaginable pain of such a tragic bereavement – retelling in a letter that she has written to Curtis, the incomprehensible pain of discovering her son dead in a bathtub. There is not a shred of melodrama in Robinson’s work, simply a performance of carefully crafted grief and emotion that has to rank amongst the finest in London.
There’s stunning work too from David Leopold’s Curtis, who in a character that is not afforded much dialog to work with, delivers a startling depiction of sullen teenage inarticulacy. Leopold takes Curtis on a journey that starts with awkward shame and ends in profound and sincere regret for his actions. His is perhaps the evening’s most complex of characters to portray and he delivers perfectly.
Lisa Stevenson and Alex Lowe as the Dermot parents similarly turn in assured interpretations of complex characters. Offering an understandable thread of sympathy for the Shaun-Hasting’s loss yet still with their own primal defence of Curtis, there’s a troubling resonance to their responses around the dinner table. Clumsy yet conventional in their view of the world, we may not all have encountered folk who bear the pain of the Shaun-Hastings, but we can all recognise the Dermots.
Michael Yale directs his company with an incisive sensitivity, with Zahra Mansouri’s set proving as economic as it is effective – the tiny cockpit of the Finborough lending itself perfectly to the stifling intimacy of this particular dinner.
Grief, shame, parenthood and marriage – Late Company examines all these, alongside a backdrop of the all pervading, corrosive power of the internet and social media, particularly for the young and an argument suggesting that bad deeds are not necessarily committed by bad people. Not an easy night at the theatre, but Late Company makes for compelling, essential drama.