THE LAST OF THE HAUSSMANS
by Stephen Beresford.
Lyttelton Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 10 October 2012.
Runs: 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 4 July.
New generation looking back in anger..
We thought we could change the world. Well, more fool the baby boomers, those who `came of age’ in the 1960s and ‘70s. Now the chickens are coming home to roost and a flock of plays are giving voice to just how far today’s Noughties generation feel we screwed up.
I didn’t see Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love, recently at the Royal Court, but April de Angelis’s Jumpy there pitched generations against each other to hilarious and sometimes agonising effect. In Alexi Kaye Campbell’s Apologia (Bush 2009), there was also a certain amount of parental bashing.
Stephen Beresford’s ambitious first play, The Last of the Haussmans, carries on this calling to account with ageing hippy Judy (Julie Walters in expansive form) taken to task by her dysfunctional children, Libby (Helen McCrory, sleek and controlling in black wig) and Nick (Rory Kinnear turning in a winning performance as her gay son).
`I apologise for nothing’ exclaims Judy in the no holds barred showdown going on to admit she made many mistakes but always kept true to `the light’.
Howard Davies’ production is awash in 60s musical motifs whilst you can practically smell the neglect coming off Judy’s once grand but now hopelessly decaying art deco Devon seaside residence.
So far so good. Beresford’s sharp one-liners gain added bite in the mouth of McCrory and Kinnear. But I found myself baffled by Beresford’s dramatic narrative and unconvinced by its twists and turns.
Selfishness being the prime vice aimed at Judy by her children, Beresford tries to create a scenario of grandeur – the Haussmans once ran a large department store – gone to seed with subplots surrounding a conniving GP and the inheritance of the house itself, little of which ultimately stands up, though the entertainment arising from the family dynamics seldom falters.
There have – and will be – better plays about the shallowness of ‘60s idealism and its illusions. Beresford’s sweetest legacy perhaps lies in his suggestion that in Judy’s chaotic lifestyle, disastrous though it may have been for her children, also lies the seeds of hope and an unquenchable, generous life-force.
Libby: Helen McCrory.
Nick: Rory Kinnear.
Summer: Isabella Laughland.
Judy: Julie Walters.
Peter: Matthew Marsh.
Daniel: Taron Egerton.
Director: Howard Davies.
Designer: Vicki Mortimer.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Projections: Jon Driscoll.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson, Zabarjad Salam.
The World premiere of The Last of the Haussmans was at the Lyttelton Theatre, London on 19 June 2012.