by William Inge.
Jermyn Street Theatre 16b Jermyn Street SW1 6ST To 9 August 2014.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS:0207 287 2875.
Review: William Russell, 17 July.
Dream production of an American nightmare.
William Inge, who committed suicide in 1973 aged sixty, having apparently lost his belief in his ability to write plays, was a major American playwright with the likes of Picnic, Come Back Little Sheba, Bus Stop andThe Dark at the Top of the Stairs to his name. He also wrote the screenplay for Splendor in the Grass.
Natural Affection, getting its UK premier, opened on Broadway in 1962 but there was a newspaper strike and it only ran for 36 performances. Set in Chicago over Christmas in blue collar America, as much of Inge’s work was, it is about people for whom the dream was proving elusive, and the random violence, especially among the young, that was (and still is) afflicting society.
Sue, a thirty-something fashion-buyer, lives in a small flat with her younger lover, a barman turned car salesman who dreams of making it. She has a son by a previous relationship, brought up in an orphanage, who has ended up in reform school, having attacked an elderly woman. He is to be allowed out early provided he stays with his mother.
It is the impact of his arrival on her relationship with the macho and far from faithful Bernie and on their neighbours in the block of flats in which they live, that the play deals with.
Inge springs some real surprises and the shocking violence at the end, although expected, is not what one expects. Director Grace Wessels has secured first-rate playing from her cast, and from Lysette Anthony as the mother with feelings of guilt a most touching performance. Sue is tough – she has made her way, earns more than Bernie – but she is also vulnerable and Anthony is marvellous as a woman, a tightly coiled spring unravelling as this intruder destroys her world.
Timothy Knightley gives a terrific display of male thuggery as Bernie, and Louis Cardona is confused, dangerous and endearing as Donnie, Sue’s unreliable son. But there is good playing all round, with Jonathan Wadey and Jessica Preddy creating splendidly awful swinger neighbours. The play, deservedly resurrected, is well worth catching, .
Sue Barker: Lysette Anthony.
Bernie Slovenk: Timothy Knightley.
Vince Brinkman: Jonathan Wadey.
Claire Brinkman: Jessica Preddy.
Donnie Barker: Louis Cardona.
Gil/Young Man: Jeremy Smith.
Superintendant/Young Woman: Adriana Maestranzi.
Director: Grace Wessels.
Designer: Victoria Johnstone.
Lighting: Steve Lowe.
Movement: Ronin Traynor.
Costume: Emily Stuart.
Assistant director: Alex Pearson.