THE LATE HENRY MOSS
by Sam Shepard.
Southwark Playhouse (The Little) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 26 September 2015.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 September.
Who did what? Never mind; enjoy the dilapidated territory of this landscape.
There’s a freezer-full of dramatic themes packed into 100 relentless minutes of Mel Hillyard’s no-interval production of Sam Shepard’s 2001 play. Shepard, typically, mixes things about so the audience become as much detectives as Ray Moss, returning home to find his father dead, while Brother Earl tries to make his way – or stay in the same place – in life without being troubled.
Neighbour Esteban, a gentle guitar-playing Chris Jared, bearing bowls of soup to sustain Henry, is guileless, while Ray’s principal witness, the taxi-driver who took Henry on his final fishing-trip is much put-upon by the Mosses and just wants to get on with his job.
Ray’s inquest into his father’s death isn’t that of a rational detective, nor of the heir with an interest in the spoils. There are no spoils; living in a shabby shanty by the New Mexico desert, Henry’s fridge is empty. Inflamed fury drives Joseph Arkley’s Ray. Among the fierce Mosses and their unforthcoming visitors, he’s the one who thinks and faces-up to conflict, the neatest in dress and mind.
It takes time for the weakness to show beneath the tough exterior of Jack Sandle’s Earl, his secrecy building-in aggression and impulsive actions, not listening to others more than he has to.
All this makes for a rough ride, with the sustained calm of Jared’s neighbour, and the earnest appeals to reason of Joe Evans as the taxi-driver Ray’s manages to locate, seeming alien to the world of the Moss’s shack, which becomes its own little hothouse world.
Which also means sex, and that means Conchalla, who took-up with old (far older than her) Henry. One touch of humour is the dead Henry, first seen as feet sticking out from his bed, coming to life in flashbacks through the tall splenetic Harry Ditson. Boy, can you see where those boys got it from.
Designer Cecilia Carey captures the physical, and suggests the mental, poverty of Moss-land, the bed finally opening-up as a bath for Conchalla. Her existence with the dead Henry is lively, while in the present-tense scenes Carolina Valdés breathes heat into brooding silence.
Ray: Joseph Arkley.
Henry: Harry Ditson.
Taxi: Joe Evans.
Esteban: Chris Jared.
Earl: Jack Sandle.
Conchalla: Carolina Valdés.
Director: Mel Hillyard.
Designer: Cecilia Carey.
Lighting: Christopher Nairne.
Sound/Composer: Keir Vine.
Movement: Lucie Pankhurst.
Dialect coach: Kara Tsiaperas.
Fihjt director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Heather Ward.
Associate designer: Patti Porteous.