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Kenneth Hoyt presents

 

THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL

 

 

Lucy Murphy and Alicia Farnworth in The Trip to Bountiful - Courtyard Theatre, London

Photo - Raymond Sage

 

 

Writer: Horton Foote

 

Director: Kenneth Hoyte

 

Courtyard Theatre

 

6 July – 1 August 2010

 

 

 

 

A review by Jafar Iqbal for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Considering this is a play originally produced in 1985, Trip To Bountiful has more historical relevance than you might imagine; you can thank the writer, Horton Foote, for that. This is where I bring you up to date with some historical context. Bear with me. This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird, the legendary novel by Harper Lee. It doesn’t really need to be said just how much influence the book has had on not just American literature, but politics and arts in general. Now, here’s the crucial link – the equally brilliant screenplay adapted from the novel was written by none other than our very own Horton Foote.

So with context and trivia ticked off the checklist, attention can now be turned to the production in question. Kenneth Hoyt is the man at the helm as director, making good use of a very spacious Courtyard Theatre space and doing justice to a sweetly written script. Immediately, the parallels between the two Foote plays are unavoidable – these are plays set in the 1950s Deep South, about communities that are tight-knit and families that do enough to get by.

It’s a family of three in question this time round – Ludie is the breadwinner of the house, an honest ma and Jessie May, a wife more worried about hair appointments than domestic matters. But most importantly, this is a story about Mother Watts. Growing old and ill, she pines for one last chance to return to Bountiful, the town where she spent most of her life. When nobody tries to help her fulfil her wish, she decides to run away on her own. With Ludie and Jessie May on her trail, Mother Watts tries to get to Bountiful one last time.

Though it might seem like a pretty obvious statement, the first thing that strikes me about the production is just how American it is. It deserves to be mentioned because I feel it’s an accomplishment of the director to establish that. From the Southern accents to the somewhat archetypal characters to the well-chosen use of music, we are thrust into that post-Depression Era world without much difficulty and can get emotionally invested.

The actors, too, are successful in helping to draw the audience in. There isn’t a bad performance at all, and most of them are very good. As the lead character, Alicia Farnworth is fantastic; we feel her pain with her as she suffers in a house in which she isn’t wanted and we get excited with her as she sets out on her journey. It’s a strong performance which drives the story forward and is the crux that the rest of the cast feed off. The other notable performance in the piece is that of Alison McKenna as Jessie May. We hate her from her very first line, and that egotistical, selfish persona never fails to entertain. As well as being one of the main antagonists, she is a much-needed source of humour.

In fact, humour is something I feel the play really lacked. Because of the nature of the story, it moved along at quite a slow pace and jarred me slightly. Due to the large space and extensive staging and props, scene changes were also too long at points but, admittedly, the set was worth the effort. What hurt the show on the night though, was not its fault at all - with a massive theatre space and no more than ten people in the audience, that usual buzz was not there. This was a preview performance, after all, so perhaps a big crowd was not expected, but I get the feeling that having a larger crowd would add a whole new dimension to the production.

Overall, though, this was a play worth seeing and another example of the brilliance of Horton Foote in portraying post-Depression Era America.

 

 

Box Office: 0844 477 1000

 http://www.thecourtyard.org.uk

Lighting: Pete Bragg

Costume Designer: Joanna Campbell

 

Tuesday – Sunday at 7.30pm

 

No performance on Mondays

Tickets: £15 / £12 concessions

The Courtyard Theatre, 40 Pitfield Street, London N1 6EU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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