THE ONE DAY OF THE YEAR – Finborough Theatre

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GUEST REVIEWER LUKE JONES IS STIRRED BY  REMEMBRANCE

★★★★
Finborough Theatre, London – until 13 June 2015

In quiet England we stand in silence. In Australia, at least in this play, they shout it from the rooftops and down it from the bottle. ANZAC day – a day to remember Gallipoli. A tragic loss. I had genuinely never heard an intelligent discussion on the purpose of remembrance until tonight.

Pride beams from father Alf – a slurry, sweaty, hilarious but not in the least bit cartoonish Aussie alpha male – but talk of ‘waste’ drips from his freshly educated son, Hughie. Deep-rooted pride and freshly-potted disgust – war years and university years – are pitted against each other with the arrival of a girlfriend. She has yachtING friends, pearls and, like all well-bred folk, a flagrant disregard for manners or feelings. ‘Ideas’ have been brought to the kitchen table for the first time. They saved all this money to send him to university and this is their superficial prize.

Mother and father (Alf and Dot), played with steamingly raw and touchingly real emotion by Mark Little and Fiona Press, see all the ambition and hope they transplanted into their son dashed. A family of ‘no hopers’ ,and their one sprout of hope has turned against them. Alan Seymour’s play struggles to get a grip of this argument at first. The dialogue slides past without you noticing as no one really says anything other than platitudes about class, family and ANZAC day. The set’s simplicity and the twinkly inter-scene piano music gives it the whiff of something to doze to.

But as the arguments start it takes hold, as pride and ambition’s tangible effect is rolled out. Hughie, played simply but very well by James William Wright, ties all this nicely together as the arbiter of argument and reconciliation. You see his frustration, but behind it his thanks as well. Some flatter lines persist, but feel fuller in this talented cast’s mouths. The director, Wayne Harrison, keeps it moving though, perfectly driving the shoebox space, trapping us as tensions rise. It is easy at first to mistake the play’s simplicity as spare padding from a slow week of Neighbours. It feels very kitchen-sink, but it has far more to say. A war-career that will never be topped is clung to, a lack of purpose realized, family support rediscovered , a history is properly appreciated. A beautiful and delicate knit.
Until 13th June. Box Office: 020 7244 7439
rating: four

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Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.
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Libby Purves on RssLibby Purves on Twitter
Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.

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