HOUSE OF AMERICA
by Ed Thomas
Jack Studio Theatre, The Brockley Jack, 410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH to 15 July 2017.
Tues – Sat 7.45pm
Runs 2hr 15 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0333 666 3366
Review: William Russell 30 June
Horror in the valleys and on the road
This is a splendid horror story set in a Welsh valley where open cast coal mining has started to operate near the home of the widow Lewis and her two sons and daughter. But it is a story in context of a society destroyed when the pits closed down, of young men unable to find work, of a mother whose husband abandoned them some dozen odd years earlier struggling to make the best of it. Mam, played with sensitivity by Lowri Lewis, seems a warm, loveable soul with a sense of humour who is resigned to the fact that the night she washed the cat in the washing machine, with obvious results, her husband left her to find a new life in America. It is only gradually you realise that something is not quite right.
As for her sons, whose last jobs seem to have been as grave diggers, Sid, played by Pete Grimwood, is apparently the straightforward tough one, Boyo, played by Robert Durbin is more sensitive, the one who follows where led. As for their sister Gwenny, played by Evelyn Campbell, she is a shy withdrawn girl. The serpent which enters this far from perfect Eden is a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road which fuels the dreams Sid has of going to America to find their father. Obviously that open cast mining operation represents a threat, the boys’ lives plunge further into chaos when they fail to get work there, and the dream life Sid and Gwenny live through the pages of the novel starts to turn into incestuous reality as they become Jack and Joyce Johnson while Boyo, the most grounded of the trio in the event, watches appalled.
And there is Mam, who is clearly going mad and has had to go in to a home where, when the open cast mine reveals its secret, she reveals her secret. It is a potent play very well directed and performed and the tragedy unfolds as inexorably as in any Greek play. The Gods have decreed and the mortals thrash around in agony. It also contains a stage fight between the two boys which – there is no fight director credited – sets one on the edge of one’s seat. It was Thomas’ first play and was staged at the Royal Court in 1989 to acclaim. This excellent revival does it full justice.
Sid: Pete Grimwood.
Mam: Lowri Lewis.
Boyo: Robert Durbin.
Gwenny: Evelyn Campbell.
Labourer: David Palmstrom.
Director: James O’Donnell.
Designer: Sorcha Corcoran.
Lighting Designer: Jamie Platt.
Sound Designer: Rachael Murray.
Dialect Coach: Rachel Isaac.