is a Swedish play and so, inevitably, it is about an unhappy family.
Noren (big in
Europe, all but unknown in Britain) presents us with an older couple
and their fortyish daughters during and after a wine-fuelled dinner.
The younger daughter is poor, unfulfilled, jealous of her sister's
financial success, and convinced that there is some Deep Dark Secret in
the family past that will explain why she's such a mess. Relentlessly
and with mounting hysteria she pushes the others to tell her what it
actually is a Deep Dark Secret, it never comes out. We do get a few
lesser and peripheral secrets - a long-ago affair, a burning
disappointment, a lovingly nourished grudge - but not the big thing
that will explain it all.
evidently Noren's point - that, despite what plays and films have
taught us through the years, lives are not shaped by one Deep Dark
Secret whose revelation will magically make things better.
is a strong
message, and very probably a true one. But it is not wholly
satisfactory as a theatrical experience. We are in fact primed to
expect a big revelation, and without it the play just peters out
frustratingly. It may be only later, once we get past our vague
disappointment, that we intellectually acknowledge the validity of
is a variant
on Chekhov's dictum about the gun: if you introduce a gun in the first
scene, it had better go off in the last. Noren keeps brandishing that
gun, but it's loaded with blanks.)
the play has
the power it does is largely a tribute to director Derek Goldby and his
cast, who establish and sustain the reality of the characters even at
their most archetypal.
makes us believe in the younger sister's deep unhappiness even as we
recognise the drama queen in her, half-enjoying her own misery. Diane
Fletcher and Kristin Hutchinson skilfully distinguish between two
different kinds of denial while making us believe that their characters
harbour agonies just as painful if less on display, and Osmund Bullock
captures the pathos of a man whose life's work has been to be
ineffective and irrelevant.
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- Autumn & Winter - Orange Tree 2011