Posts Tagged ‘Carol Macready’

Another play we were due to see two years ago, and one I was particularly looking forward to having enjoyed Beth Steel’s first three plays and even more of Anne Marie Duff’s performances, and boy was it worth the wait. An epic covering more than 50 years and 4 generations of the Webster family, together with much of the social history of the country since the mid-sixties.

We start in 1965 on the death of Constance’s father, when her mother comes to live with them. She and her husband Alistair have teenage twins Jack & Agnes and a younger daughter Laura. Alistair is a factory worker and shop steward. Constance is clearly unfulfilled, often in her own world of Bette Davies films and cabaret songs. Jack and Agnes look like following in their parents footsteps, both in terms of occupations and politics. Agnes is as feisty as her mum and Jack as passionate about politics as his dad. Laura seems to have learning difficulties, and its her fate which will hang over them all for decades to come.

We navigate the return of Labour in the 60’s, the winter of discontent, Thatcherism and the miners strike, New Labour and more recent times and events. Only Jack breaks out, with an extraordinary journey from communism to capitalism. As family members die, their neighbour comes to wash and lay them out, until that is no longer the custom; she’s like a narrator / chorus, commenting on changing times. Though it’s a linear story, characters return in ghostly flashbacks and it’s not until the end of the play that the pieces come together like the completion of a jigsaw. Blanche McIntyre’s direction is masterly.

The ensemble is outstanding, led by a superb performance from Anne-Marie Duff as Constance. She was in Sweet Charity at the Donmar before lockdown, so we knew she could hold a tune, and here she contributes a handful of songs in her dream life, but its the story of her family life which captivates. Some of the cast double up very effectively, notably Stuart McQuarrie as Alistair and the older Jack and Carol Macready as Constance’s mother Edith and the older Constance. There’s a lovely cameo from Beatie Edney as the neighbour.

I’ve lived through the whole of this period, a real life contemporary of Jack, and there is an authenticity about the play, with the exception of bad language in the home which you would never hear in the working class homes in my village at that time. It’s sometimes harrowing (there were tears behind us), but it’s a real theatrical feast and I left the theatre feeling deeply satisfied by a great drama superbly staged and performed. Unmissable.

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New-on-the-block company Defibrilator follow their excellent Blue Surge at the Finborough by staging three late Tennessee Williams shorts in three different rooms in, well, a hotel.

We meet in the foyer of the Holborn Grange Hotel (very welcoming staff) and c. 20 of us head off to Room 201 where a couple are waking. Sitting around them in close proximity isn’t always comfortable as they fight and quarrel about the boy’s drinking and the girl’s fidelity. Off to Room 301 before the arrival of what appears to be an old queen and his toy boy / rent boy playing power games with one another. Finally, another floor up to 401 where an old lady is preyed upon and robbed by two young men after her jewelry.

Three very different plays that benefit from the intimacy and immediacy of the staging. The artifice is soon overtaken by your immersion in the stories and it really is a voyeuristic experience. Late TW never matches great TW but it’s always fascinating to see him lose his inhibitions and here there’s an extent to which we have to lose ours with him.

All eight actors are very good, with a particular star turn from veteran Carol Macready as Miss Sylvia Sails in the final play. Here’s even a Downton Abbey footman if you’re into seeing  ‘people off the telly’!

An original and rewarding experience.

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