THE HEART OF THINGS
by Giles Cole.
Jermyn Street Theatre 16b Jermyn Street SW1Y 6ST To 4 April 2015.
Mon–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2 hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7287 2875.
Review: William Russell 14 March.
An implausible family reunion.
The action takes place somewhere in Norfolk, first of all in 2004 when we meet the family – tyrannical wheelchair-bound father, simple single-mother daughter who looks after him, and the gay English teacher son making his annual visit – and then over a weekend in 2010 during the negotiations following the outcome of the General Election, although what they have do with anything is anybody’s guess.
The skeletons, as is the way with this sort of play, tumble out of the family closet in swift succession but to little effect. This is not the fault of the cast who struggle admirably to make sense of their roles; Giles Cole has simply over-egged his pudding to disastrous effect with each emerging skeleton less likely than the ones that have gone before.
There is a moment in the second Act, however, when the tormented teacher, Peter, well-played by Nick Waring, reveals he has been suspended from his job following an attempt to seduce him by one of his girl students. He had rejected her, which prompted three of the boys to accuse him of being gay, and in the resulting clash he lashed out breaking the nose of one of the tormentors. Suddenly a really interesting play about the problems teachers face when having to deal with today’s sexually aware, internet-prowling children briefly rears its head.
A lot gets written about teachers who groom pupils, but just as interesting are pupils who target teachers alleging sexual abuse where there is none. Family reunion plays are usually great fun, but one has to believe in the family and this family makes no sense.
Patience Tomlinson as Ros creates a touching woman whose life has been wasted looking after her widowed father, playing mother to her gay younger brother, and tending to her well-meaning but dim yokel partner Bob while raising an amazingly well-grounded son.
But when her share of skeletons also include a teenage rape by the posh son of an Tory MP, not to mention possible incestuous feelings towards her brother – who is the father of her son? – one ceases to care.
Brian Calder: Ralph Watson.
Bob Farrow: Keith Parry.
Peter Calder: Nick Waring.
Ros Calder: Patience Tomlinson.
Jacqui Price: Amy Rockson.
William Farrow: Ollo Clark.
Director: Knight Mantell.
Designer/Costume: Joana Dias.
Lighting: Nic Farman.
Sound: Andrew Johnson.