by Simon Longman
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre
Sloane Square, London SW1 8AS to 10 March 2018.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thy ^ Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 40 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: William Russell 7 February
Cold Comfort Sheep Farm
Some terrific performances, several power moments and effective speeches, but otherwise heaven knows what is going on in the barren sheep farm somewhere in the deepest countryside miles from civilisation – except that three siblings are fighting, and grandfather has dementia. It all presumably means something, but what is anybody’s guess. Director Vicky Featherstone has certainly done her best with the material and designer Chloe Lamford has transformed the box upstairs into a stunning muddy wilderness. Becky (Ria Zmitrowicz) and Anna (Rochenda Sandall) live on the isolated farm rearing sheep with their brother Ben (Alex Austin) and their aged grandfather Mick (Alan Williams). Life is hard, the seasons cruel, the sheep afflicted, the sheepdog is dying. Enter the possible illegal immigrant, a smouldering bearded hunk, claiming his name his Guy (Alec Secareanu).
The girls take pity, offer him a home in their tumbledown farmstead, and he accepts much to the rage of brother Ben, a deeply neurotic youth refusing to help with the toil of the farm. Meanwhile their unseen father is somewhere out on the hill about to commit suicide.
But enough of the plot. Alan Williams as the patriarch Mick gets a fine speech to deliver in which he admits to knowing he is losing his mind and delivers it to great effect. As Ben Alex Austin is all raw nerve ends and volatility, powerful emotions at first suppressed and then breaking out – there is a chilling scene with a shotgun in his mouth – and his sisters, the elder struggling to find a way to survive, the younger accepting with resignation what life brings are created effectively by Ria Zimitowicz and Rochenda Sandall.
No faulting the cast, but the play, however, is a thing of shreds and some glorious patches and dead bodies interspersed with much crashing of thunder and shotgun blasts. While the lack of an interval did not stop my neighbour departing mid performance, an interval might have seen more people heading for the exit.
Becky: Ria Zmitrowicz.
Anna: Rochendal Sandal.
Guy: Alec Secareanu.
Ben: Alex Austin.
Mick: Alan Williams.
Director: Vicky Featherstone.
Designer: Chloe Lamford.
Lighting Designer: Lee Curran.
Composer: Matthew Herbert.
Sound Designer: Peter Rice.
Costume Supervisor: Lucy Walshaw.