by Arnold Wesker.
King’s Head 115 Upper Street N1 1QN To 9 June 2012.
Runs: 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7478 0160.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 May.
Whipping up a gripping debate on a psychological theme.
Something has made Jenny furious. She thinks she knows what it is; as a child she was abused by her father. She blotted the horrific experience from her consciousness as if it never happened. Now psychotherapist Valerie has brought it to the surface.
But did it ever happen? Did something physical but not abusive – a family game, perhaps – become distorted to supply Jenny’s need to account for problems in her life; or of Valerie to prove her one-strand therapy?
Was it a childhood sexual assault, or an assault on her adult mind – it only takes a gap for ‘therapist’ to become ‘the rapist’, while anyone can set-up in the trade? Valerie has a short way with questions about training or qualifications.
Certainly, whatever is troubling Jenny comes out in uncontrolled fury, nearly destroying her family as the accusations spread.
In The Crucible or The Children’s Hour there are clear, self-interested motives behind the allegations. But not here, with Recovered Memory Syndrome, in the news when Arnold Wesker’s play appeared 12 years ago. Two things give force to claims about the past: Recovered Memory Syndrome had the certainty of a new cause, against which no arguments had been developed, buttressed by a climate in which allegations had to be seen from the accuser’s point of view until shown to be otherwise.
Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s revival opens with a colourful film of a family playing happily. It’s the last colour there’s to be. The world descends into the dark, as Clare Cameron’s Jenny, prompted by Valerie, descends into fury, smashing furniture and shouting allegations at her family. Even the short hair seems part of an effort to slew them off.
Sally Plumb’s therapist has all the answers, provided with zealot-like certainty, imposing herself as an alternative, better ‘family’ for Jenny. And Shelley Lang, as Jenny’s lawyer sister, has a quiet adamantine quality, refusing to be sucked into an illogical world. These performances especially, Spreadbury-Maher’s intense direction and Wesker’s passionate yet logical dialogue for the core scenes turn what might have been an oppositional diatribe into gripping drama, in which 100 minutes passes quickly.
Matthew Young: Nicholas Gecks.
Karen Young: Stephanie Beattie.
Jenny Young: Clare Cameron.
Abigail Young: Shelley Lang.
Valerie Morgan: Sally Plumb.
Sandy Cornwall: Maggie Daniels.
Ziggy Landsman: John Bromley.
Child: Sky Page.
Director: Adam Spreadbury-Maher.
Lighting: Richard Williamson.
Film: Emma Nan Hu.
Dialect coach: Elspeth Morrison.
Assistant director: Fana Cioban.
Assistant designer: Sara Polonghini.