Director: Michael Boyd

This a whirlwind start to the much anticipated American Season 2014. A rollercoaster of a play from LeFranc who presents us with 3 generations of family life; encompassing birth, marriage, death with a dash of humour and despair all taking place around a dining table in a mere 90 minutes. The script moves at an extraordinary pace, punctuated by dining bells and the sound of cutlery on china; the cacophony of the more dysfunctional conversations being destroyed by the heartbreaking silence of someone dying. As a consequence the power of those left behind shifts a little each time.
This is essentially a comic piece, the cast of 8 playing more than one character and switching through the years with great style. The brutal precision of the razor sharp dialogue is astonishing; whether being undermined by an aging parent or as a beleaguered parent fighting with teenage angst and sibling rivalry the undercurrent of the script always speaking volumes. The drama and pace turn on a breath as the various characters see their youth ebb away, their commitments over take their youthful happiness and the inevitable question, for what?

The cast are outstanding; the quality of performances lifts this tour de force into realms of extreme discomfort, depths of heartbreak and moments of truly fine humour. Diana Quick and Keith Bartlett as the older generation provide the necessary barbs and spoiling of grand children and the circle of life is set. There is huge energy in Kirsty Bushell, James Corrigan, Lindsey Campbell and Jo Stone-Fewings; on this occasion the cast was complimented admirably by the performances of Robbie Whittock and Courtnei Danks as the children.
Directed with great elegance by Michael Boyd, who captures every nuance of the piece regardless of how uncomfortable it might be on an open static design from Tom Piper.

Once again the Ustinov have kicked off with an absolutely stunning new work, it is challenging and thought provoking; few plays are around of this calibre with a true balance of humour and insight. It is a welcome return for the 2014 American Season, grab a ticket.

****
Petra Schofield