EACH HIS OWN WILDERNESS
by Doris Lessing.
Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 16 May 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & 23, 30 Apr, 5, 12 May 2.30pm.
Audio-described 28 Apr, 2 May 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 30 Apr 2.30pm, 5 May.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 April.
A household of barren desires brought to life with an understanding of the historic moment.
Before each act, in Paul Miller’s production of Doris Lessing’s 1958 drama, old recordings of stirring national tunes – the Soviet National Anthem, the Marseillaise, the Internationale – sound, musty in tone as their ideals seem in an age for which no good, great causes are left. That was the lament of Jimmy Porter, heard on the Royal Court Theatre stage in John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, two years before Each His Own Wilderness put the opposite case at the same theatre.
It’s recognisably the same world, from the opening where young Tony Bolton, returning in army uniform from his two years’ National Service, creeps round the front door, keen to return to remembered normality. Jimmy Porter railed against complacent English society; Tony’s whole manner is blank, without emotional variety. He wants none of his mother’s activism; and to find her trotting-off to a demonstration in elegant outfit, then stopping for a conversation in the street, the heart has evidently gone from the generation fired-up by the Spanish Civil War.
It’s a cold world, from the restraint of Myra’s greeting to her son – held back by knowing Tony’s friend Sandy is in her bed. Personal relationships bring no happiness. When Tony, improvising a bedroom in the hallway, tries seducing Sandy’s mother in return, Susannah Harker’s Milly responds with a common-sense practicality increased by her northern tone.
Trying to help her son, Clare Holman’s elegantly nervous Myra takes the step most likely to upset him. And she is torn between spasms of reconciliation with her ex-husband and responses to the unassertively faithful friend Mike. But no-one wins in this play.
Firm performances run through Miller’s revival. Lessing might demand patience of modern audiences, but she deliberate paces-out her territory, making her point about the separate, unfulfilled lives it contains. Wilderness has the values of traditional crafting and, being a play by a novelist, is just what the Royal Court management had been looking for when they ended-up with Anger. Along, particularly, with the recent near-premiere of Pomona, Miller’s revival shows him building on the theatre’s traditions while providing them with new angles.
Tony Bolton: Joel MacCormack.
Myra Bolton: Clare Holman.
Sandy Boles: Josh Taylor.
Mike Ferris: Roger Ringrose.
Philip Durrant: John Lightbody.
Rosemary: Rosie Holden.
Milly Boles: Susannah Harker.
Director: Paul Miller.
Designer: Tom Roger.
Lighting: Howard Hudson.
Sound: Emma Laxton.
Dialect coach: Michaela Kennen.