by Horton Foote.

Courtyard Theatre 40 Pitfield Street N1 6EU To 1 August 2010.
Tue-Sun 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 477 1000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 July.

Makes a trip to the Courtyard worthwhile.
In the West End, it might have come in for patronising comments about a sub-Tennessee Williams story with easily-contrived characters. But Kenneth Hoyt’s skilful Courtyard production brings out this play’s qualities, its sympathetic treatment of ‘Mother’ Watts, as daughter-in-law Jessie Mae refers to her in Horton Foote’s 1985 script.

Almost a prisoner in her son Ludie’s house, where Jessie Mae values her precisely at the level of her monthly pension, Carrie Watts eventually squirrels a cheque away and escapes to her childhood home of Bountiful. Severely run-down, it’s no longer what it was, but Carrie invests it with her memories. And Hoyt’s main design element, a house rotated (by hand – this is the Fringe) fills with people whose movement brings it to life around fleeting visions of young Carrie as a happy, hopeful belle.

Though Alicia Farnworth begins by over-eagerly signalling Carrie’s tension and distress, when she reaches her childhood home the performance develops a depth, seen with the people she meets, including Morgan Deare’s sympathetic old Sheriff, in her crafty attempts to persuade somebody to cash the pension-cheque that’s her only source of money, and in the radiance her return brings about.

Raymond Murray Sage is perplexed as her son, torn between wife and mother, building himself to ask for a raise at work, while Alison McKenna’s Jessie Mae fills her superficiality with an American consumerist daydream; eternally ready for a photo-shoot in make-up and bright red dress, she sees life’s bounty as socialising with her friends round plentiful cigarettes and Coca-Cola.

There’s good supporting work, especially from Lucy Murphy as a traveller Carrie talks to on her journey, pleasant if puzzled by this old lady. In fact everyone she meets is sympathetic, even when they’re helping hold her in Bountiful till Ludie and the ever-complaining Jessie Mae arrive.

But the sight of her old home is bounty enough for Carrie after her years oppressed by her daughter-in-law’s petty regulations. Songs and hymns from her youth, and the vision of her old home make theatrically evident how much of a release Carrie’s trip has been in this fine revival.

Mother Watts: Alicia Farnworth.
Ludie: Raymond Murray Sage.
Jessie Mae: Alison McKenna.
Thelma: Lucy Murphy.
Roy: Carsten Hayes.
Sheriff: Morgan Deare.
Young Carrie: Samantha Dakin.
Roy John Murray: Michel Norledge.
Singer/Ensemble: Jalcyone Jurst.
Ensemble: Joncie Elmore.

Director/Designer: Kenneth Hoyt.
Lighting: Pete Bragg.
Sound: Lawrence Brown.
Costume: Joanna Campbell.

2010-07-22 14:20:00

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