by Harold Brighouse.
Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 22 January 2011.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Mat Wed 2.30pm & Sat 4pm.
Audio-described 15 Jan 4pm.
BSL Signed 18 Jan.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 January.
Sturdy revival catches the Brighouse manner..
Harold Brighouse’s best-known play, Hobson’s Choice (1916), sees a forceful young (though not very young) woman defying the family patriarch to make an unassertive employee of the family business realise his potential, saving him from marriage to a woman whose weakness would destroy his chances, and of whose mother he is afraid.
Coming four years later, Brighouse’s Zack shows a quietly assertive young (though not very young) woman defying the family matriarch to make an unassertive member of the family business realise his potential, rescuing him from marriage to a woman whose weakness would destroy his chances, and of whose father he is afraid.
The Munnings sideline one of their own in Zack, whose practical uselessness they can’t see is outweighed by the cheerfulness he engenders in customers (trade was never irrelevant to Brighouse). The family’s bright hope, Paul, mean in spirit and pocket, can’t see why the business is failing.
Zack’s become the Royal Exchange signature piece. This is its third production, after opening the 1986 autumn programme, and playing the pre-Christmas slot in the theatre’s opening season a decade earlier, when Patricia Routledge was the redoubtable though not inhuman Mrs Munning, the young Lindsay Duncan already showing star class as independent-minded Sally Teale, brought in to make it seem the struggling family can afford a proper servant.
Vicar of Dibley watchers will be among those who can understand how Trevor Peacock was finely cast as the amblingly benevolent Zack. In Greg Hersov’s current revival the role’s taken by chubbily cherubic Justin Moorhouse, who makes comic points with obvious (occasionally over-obvious) relish. He’s sympathetically funny, catching the pathos in his shyness at proposing, or a rare adventurous moment as he looks forward to emigration.
Kelly Price is his opposite in style, quietly watchful, but able to steer things her way in a finely understated performance as rich relative Virginia. Sally Teale is comically independent, Samantha Power’s Martha reluctantly under the thumb of James Quinn’s bully of a father. All in all, a pleasure, and a reminder after a stern Exchange autumn of tragedy, that life can be worth living.
Mrs Munning: Polly Hemingway.
Sally Teale: Michelle Tate.
Paul Munning: Pearce Quigley.
Viginia Cavender: Kelly Price.
Zachariah Munning: Justin Moorhouse.
Martha Wrigley: Samantha Power.
Joe Wrigley: James Quinn.
James Abbott/Thomas Mowatt: Martin Miller.
Harry Shoebridge: Will Tacey.
Director: James Greg Hersov.
Designer: Laurie Dennett.
Lighting: Richard Owen.
Sound: Steve Brown.
Dialect: Joe Windley.