by Polly Stenham.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 9 February 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu, Sat 3.30pm all performances sold out.
Captioned Perf: 8 Feb.
Post-show Talk: Wed, Feb 6
Runs 1hr 50min No interval.
TICKETS 020 7565 -5000.
Review: Carole Woddis 28 January.
Value for money? I’ll say.
Any Polly Stenham play is now an event. After That Face and Tusk Tusk at the Royal Court, No Quarter offers a further distillation of growing-up with difficult mothers.
It’s a wild, woolly tumble-dryer of a play; you can feel Stenham developing as a writer, if throwing almost everything into the pot in slightly indigestible manner.
Interestingly, she directed a reading of Look Back in Anger last year and there are definite moments when this feels like a 21st century equivalent to John Osborne’s 1956 play.
Robin, its central character, is, like Anger’s Jimmy Porter, a loquacious rebel-come-anti-hero. And the play, directed with burning intensity by Jeremy Herrin, comes over as a sustained assault on social conformity heightened by melodramatic crescendos and slightly over-heated truth-telling.
But Stenham’s awards have not been for nothing when you consider a line like: `Look at the moon, the moonlight on the trees. When a view is that beautiful, it’s like God is flirting with you, lifting his skirt, parting his legs. (beat) The slut.’
As uttered by Robin, a feverish, almost feral young adult, played with lacerating unpredictability by Tom Sturridge, it represents writer and character’s Arcadian view of a Natural world, free of the cosmopolitan `madness’ with which Robin is unfamiliar and to which he reacts so violently.
In the midst of druggy, anarchic hedonism and assisted maternal suicide, it is Sturridge’s central performance that holds together the turbulent tale of choices and repercussions (Maureen Beattie is in storming form as the mother Lily, involving Robin in her life-and-death throes), sibling rivalry, inheritance and family myths.
Throw in tirades against conventional education, mobiles and computers rotting the brain, money as the destructive force of our time, the dominance of `information exchange’ over thoughtful knowledge and a substantial argument on artistic creation as a worthwhile end in itself and you get a pot pourri that at one and the same time carries echoes of both of Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem and Hamlet.
Designer Tom Scutt’s fantastic crumbling rural lair, complete with antler heads, grandfather clock and an old air raid siren, like Stenham, doesn’t disappoint.
Robin: Tom Sturridge.
Oliver: Patrick Kennedy.
Lily: Maureen Beattie.
Coby: Alexa Davies.
Scout: Zoe Boyle.
Arlo: Joshua James.
Tommy: Taron Egerton.
Esme: Jenny Rainsford.
Director: Jeremy Herrin.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Composer: Paul Englishby.
Assistant director: Ned Bennett.
No Quarter is supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs on 11 January 2013.