by Mike Leigh.
Cottesloe Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 28 January 2012.
7.30pm Mats 2.30 some Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sats (see website for details) All performacnes sold out except 29 Dec 7.30pm.
Audio-described 14 Oct, 15 Oct, 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 12.45pm).
Captioned 10 Oct.
Runs: 2hr No interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000
Review: Carole Woddis 28 September.
Also touring to Bath and Cambridge (see below).
Historical grief speaks masterfully to us today.
Grief can take many forms. Listen to the children of 9/11 and you hear a litany of grief and rage that can take years to properly show itself except through depression and bad behaviour.
Mike Leigh’s latest – a sort of 1950s companion piece to his 1970s Ecstasy, revived at Hampstead in the spring – is all about grief and the stunted lives of post-war Britons before the ‘60s tore up the old order.
Eddies of grief still wash around Lesley Manville’s war widow, Dorothy, cardy forever thrown round her shoulders and a recalcitrant apron that should have been left in the kitchen.
Uncle Edwin meanwhile – an extraordinary wince-making performance from Sam Kelly, every clenched inch the retiring insurance office worker – is in grief perhaps for a lost life and a family environment in which any sign of emotion sends him into frozen, petrified terror. Never mind Rattigan and Coward. If you want to see repressed emotion, this is it. A devastating portrait.
And then there is Victoria, Dorothy’s troubled daughter. Victoria’s grief seems too deep to sound or express. Truculence and academic failure are her only weapons of rebellion.
Add in passing friends – David Horovitch’s horribly bluff GP, Hugh, a platitude for every occasion – and Dorothy’s two best ex-telephonist friends, Gertrude and Muriel, epitomes of middle class snobbery and insensitivity – and it becomes a quietly harrowing study in the kind of backbone-of-England mores you can still hear echoing down the airwaves of Radio 4.
In the past, Leigh’s stage plays have sometimes been cruel in their social satire. But here, whilst certainly making a point about pretensions (imagine Gertrude as a cross between Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket and Penelope Keith’s Margot Leadbetter), the agony at the heart of Dorothy, Edwin and Victoria’s lives steals up on us with devastating force.
Bill Haley and The Everly Brothers may have been rocking through the land but Alison Chitty’s heavily curtained, hermetically sealed sitting room imprisons us inside a family of silences, emotional atrophy and joylessness, trapped by and in convention.
For anyone growing up in the ‘50s, this is how it was. A small masterpiece of minute observations.
Dorothy: Lesley Manville.
Victoria: Ruby Bentall.
Edwin: Sam Kelly.
Hugh: David Horovitch.
Gertrude: Marion Bailey.
Muriel: Wendy Nottingham.
Maureen: Dorothy Duffy.
Director: Mike Leigh.
Designer: Alison Chitty.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Sound: John Leonard.
Music: Gary Yershon.
World premiere of Grief in the Cottesloe Theatre London on 21 September 2011.
25-29 Oct Tue-Wed 7.30pm Thu-Sat 8pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Bath 01225 448844 www.theatreroyal.org.uk
1-5 Nov 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm; Captioned Thu 7.45pm Cambridge Arts Theatre 01223 503333 www.cambridgeartstheatre.com