by Julian Mitchell.
Palace Theatre 20 Clarendon Road WD17 1JZ To 22 October.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Captioned 20 Oct.
Post-show Discussion 18 Oct.
TICKETS: 01923 225671.
then Oxford Playhouse 11-12 Beaumont Street OX1 2LW 25-29 October 2011.
Tue-Thu; Sat 7.30pm Fri 8pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 01865 305305.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 October.
Play that takes the scenic route.
Love and money are bound together in the double-meaning of Julian Mitchell’s title – though there’s rather more of cash than caring. A one-time Hamlet fan, old father William spent years selling tourist tat in Stratford-upon-Avon before retiring with the profits to the green Welsh hillsides surrounding the skeletal home of Ruari Murchison’s sensationally noticeable setting.
Now the children gather, with little mutual love but in several cases considerable financial need, around his wheelchair. Cared for by Solomon, originally drafted-in to tend his ailing wife, William is ready for their begging and brings a revelation of his own to end act one.
Act two shows he’s aware he’s now closer to his namesake William’s Lear than to the student prince who thrilled him in his youth (David Warner’s student Hamlet, probably, which had 1960s theatregoers queuing all night for tickets).
The first act’s surprise didn’t seem all that surprising in the light of performance details earlier on. But it turns the discussion (this is a play of discussion rather than action) in a new post-interval direction, allowing a genuine sense of relationship with the more wayward daughter Kate. If it unnerves her, it would be difficult to think of the more conventional Jane, or hopeful business failure of a son Tom coping with the revelation at all.
It’s appropriate to separate those two from Kate and environment-obsessed Hugo, in the light of Kate and William’s debate at the play’s heart. Elsewhere, there’s a sense of everyone trying a bit too hard. Mitchell’s script has some self-conscious lines, with the consciousness seems more author’s than character’s. The flow of information is constant, but character development limited.
Matthew Lloyd’s production has good moments, as when the four offspring stand onstage, clearly in their separate worlds, but does little – like the schematised performances – to give nuance to the situation or largely predictable characters.
Mitchell has been an accomplished novelist, and much of this might have worked well as a novel. Here, the impact’s summed-up in Murchison’s set, with those pictures of lush mountain greenery around that skeletal home: the focus is on the exteriors.
William: Gerard Murphy.
Solomon: Ben Onwukwe.
Tom: Chris Kelham.
Jane: Tessa Churchard.
Kate: Anna O’Grady.
Hugo: Tom Berish.
Director: Mathew Lloyd.
Designer: Ruari Murchison.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Sound: Steve Mayo.