Posts Tagged ‘Assaad Bouab’

It’s not often you go to the theatre and come out having seen something so far removed from what you expected. I was prepared for a modern adaptation of Seneca’s take on Euripides with a nod to Racine, but what I got was a shocking modern drama with a very tenuous link to its sources, yet its brilliant, thrilling stuff, if a bit over-engineered.

It’s set in a glass box that revolves. The actors are miked, speaking naturalistically, fast, overlapping, which makes it a challenge to absorb all of the dialogue. We start in the home of Helen and Hugo and their teenage son Declan. She’s a shadow minister, he’s a diplomat. It’s a very modern family where frankness and ripe language are the norm. Their older daughter Isolde and her husband Eric come for dinner. Everyone loves Eric. They’ve been struggling to have a child and are now investigating adoption.

We learn that Helen travelled to Morocco more than thirty years ago, a hedonistic trip where she had an affair with a married man who died in a car crash whilst she was there, his young son Sofiane witnessing his father’s death. The adult Sofiane, now around forty, unexpectedly, and seemingly inexplicably, arrives during dinner. He’s welcomed by all, but as the story progresses their lives are irrevocably turned upside down.

It’s impossible to reveal more without spoiling it, suffice to say it elicits gasps from the audience on a number of occasions, though there are plenty of laughs too, as the tale takes some very unexpected twists and turns. Director Simon Stone, best known here for Yerma at the Young Vic (also in a glass box but more intimate in a traverse setting in a smaller theatre) makes life difficult for himself with some very complex and long set changes, which slows the pace and lengthens it to 2h45m, though I understand this has been reduced by 35 minutes since the first preview. There’s a lot of time looking at a black screen, albeit with voiceovers and music.

We see too little of Janet McTeer on stage here since she’s settled in the US; it’s been seven years, but well worth the wait. Hers is a terrific performance as the somewhat self-centred Helen, around which everything revolves. The always reliable Paul Chahidi excels as the tolerant much put upon husband and father Hugo. French-Moroccan actor Assaad Bouab’s charismatic, magnetic presence ensures Sofiane is the centre of attention whenever he’s on stage. Notwithstanding the issues with the scene changes, Chloe Lamford’s designs are really striking.

Despite its faults, it’s a compelling and enthralling modern drama and I loved it.

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