Finborough Theatre, London – until 20 May 2017
“When you wake up in a cold sweat at night and you think someone is watching you, well it’s me. I’m watching you.”
Guess who’s coming to dinner, Toronto-style. The table has been set at Debora and Michael’s oh-so-tasteful upper class home but the atmosphere is thick with tension as their guests are Curtis, the schoolboy who bullied their son Joel – who committed suicide a year ago – and his parents. The meeting has been arranged in order to try and achieve some kind of emotional closure but as it is revealed just how raw the wounds still are, there’s so much more to dig into than a bowl of seafood pasta.
The Finborough has long had a record of supporting Canadian writers and Jordan Tannahill certainly seems like one to watch. Directed with an unhurried and unfussy clarity by Michael Yale, Late Company blisters through its hot-button topics of cyber-bullying and teen suicide with real skill, presenting an even-handed look at the issues but what really impresses, is the way in which he drips revelation after revelation into his narrative to keep us constantly on the edge of our seats.
For though Lucy Robinson’s scorchingly grief-stricken and vengeful Debora has clearly established that for her, closure means making Curtis pay, the truth of her son’s death is far more complex than that. Tannahill raises the trials of modern parenthood (how to deal with a YouTube drag artist for a son) but counters them with human nature at its most hypocritical (how to capitalise on your son’s death if you’re a politician). And as Curtis’ culpability is called into question, the social gap between the two families looms large.
Robinson is the fearsome centre of the play, both wounded and wounding, but she’s matched by great work from David Leopold as Curtis, a nuanced portrayal of what might drive someone to become a bully. Zahra Mansouri’s naturalistic set and Yale’s direction draws us right up alongside the dinner table and into Tannahill’s inquisitive and interesting plotting which has a great deal to say. You’d do well to listen.