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Estranged

 

by Jason Charles

Directed by Chris George

 

Courtyard Theatre

 

7 April – 3 May 2009

 

 

 

 

Couzens

A review by Amber Gregory for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

It’s a few days before Sam and Sylvia’s wedding and they’re making preparations with ‘mother’ when the doorbell rings.  Trouble has arrived.  Trouble comes in the form of estranged Aunt Lydia and cousin Justin who were rejected by their small northern village because of Lydia’s cradle snatching and Justin’s gayness.  So why has Sam invited them to stay before the wedding?  Is he aware of the conflict that it will bring?  Or is that what he has been waiting for all along…

This play focuses on family dilemmas and covers many diverse and ‘risky’ issues such as sexuality, religion, infidelity, incest, drugs and prostitution.  That’s a lot to fit into a two hour play and at time it feels as though a lot has been crammed into the storyline.  It does on the other hand provide constant entertainment as the audience never knows what shocking revelation will be disclosed next!  Jason Charles has successfully created six individual characters with such different motives, backgrounds and relationships that it is astonishing how much we are able to learn about each character in such a short period of time.

Millicent has been running her strict Christian household for as long as anyone can remember and her son Sam has a successful job at Sheffield council.  Along comes Sylvia, the perfect bride to be and moves into the family home- separate bed rooms off course for the Christian couple.  But is it possible that anyone can be that perfect?  And if the couple are so happy why is there a constant icy air between them?  Millicent, played by Kath Perry plays the Ice Queen to perfection and Sylvia follows suit.  Although these parts were acted well it was difficult to relate to the characters as they had no likeability factor which is crucial when creating a part.  No sympathy could be felt for either woman during the course of the play and this was something that I struggled with.  It was easy to see why Sam wanted to find an escape route by inviting his aunt and cousin, but difficult to see why it hadn’t happened long before.

Lydia and Justin- the ‘naughty’ side of the family were played with great fun by Helen Worsley and Dan Tawse.   They turned the drama into a comedy with the energetic relationship they had between them.  Everything they did in the story was inappropriate and they were there to corrupt Sam too.  Along for the ride was Martin, Sam’s best friend.  Played by Russ Bain he was the broody good looking one in the play, there to mix things up, especially with the female characters.

The set was naturalistic, a house that was clearly run by Millicent as there was not one bit of masculinity in it.  It successfully portrayed a small country house with nowhere to turn to apart from the drinks cabinet- and that is what happened.  Any revelation there was during the story included a trip (or several) to the drinks cabinet so it became an area of great focus.  If a drink was fetched the audience knew there would be a new and wild twist in the story.  The costumes played an incredibly important part in this production and said multitudes about the characters.  The virgin bride, if not wearing white, would be in the palest of pinks- contrasting to ‘slut’ Lydia in bright and low cut dresses.  Justin could not have been dressed more like a stereotypical gay guy and there was great humour in his loud underwear daring to enter this prim and proper house.  The sound, designed by Colin Hunter, was very playful.  It was a complete contrast to the home and resembled more of the fun and the chaos that Lydia and Justin brought with in with them.

Just like some of the outlandish characters this play was a lot of fun.  It was funny yet tense and touched upon some incredibly important issues such as being tied down by family and needing to desperately be free.  There were however so many storylines that at times it felt as though there were four plays crammed into one.  Although this kept the audience interested and engaged there was a definite feel that there was almost too much going on.  On the whole it was an enjoyable production, and for a night when you want to get away from your own family problems Estranged can show you family that is bound to be more dysfunctional than your own.

 

 

 

Performance time: 7.45 pm

Courtyard Theatre
Bowling Green Walk
40 Pitfield Street
London N1 6EU

Box Office: 0870 163 0717

www.thecourtyard.org.uk

£15/ Conc: £10 www.seetickets.com

Cast:Harry McQueen, Helen Worsley, Daniel Tawse, Kath Perry, Russ Bains and Jennifer Healy

Designer: Harry Scott

 

 

 

 

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