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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.

A Picture Of Autumn
Mint Theatre    Spring 2021

New York's Mint Theater continued its campaign of rediscovering lost plays from the early Twentieth Century with this 2013 revival of N. C. Hunter's A Picture Of Autumn, now made available online.

Lost plays don't come much more lost than this one, which had a single try-out performance in 1951 and never made it to the West End. Nor are there many playwrights more lost than Hunter, remembered if at all for Waters Of The Moon.

He was one of the generation of British dramatists who flourished in the 1940s and 1950s and were declared instantly outdated with the arrival of John Osborne.

A Picture Of Autumn is no masterpiece, but it is a solidly-made comedy-drama that provides a couple of hours of pleasant entertainment.

This is a play in which nothing happens, or at least one in which everyone ends up exactly as they began. There's a brief flurry in the middle when it looks like something might happen, but it doesn't, and that is both the structure and the subject of the play.

A well-off elderly couple live in the too-large, too-old and too-crumbling family home, along with the man's even older and mildly dotty brother and a single totally dotty servant.

One of their two adult sons urges them to sell and move to someplace more comfortable, and even finds them a buyer. They see the sense in his suggestion but they dither and digress and decide and undecide and decide again and then no big spoiler alert needed here find a last-minute excuse not to go.

Throughout, the play never loses sympathy for them, even as it laughs at their ridiculousness or gets exasperated at their dithering and delaying.

If the name Chekhov didn't enter your mind several sentences back, it should have. There is no cherry orchard, but the shadow of the Russian hangs over this play, adding allegorical end-of-an-era and passing-of-a-useless-but-lovely-generation overtones.

Hunter doesn't push the point too hard, preferring to amuse himself and us with incidental business.

There's some sibling rivalry between the two sons, a bit of ineffectual coveting of thy brother's wife, some talk of the way World War Two has changed everything, and even a touch of necrophilia-by-proxy as a young girl resembles the elderly brother's long-lost love.

But even as we watch all that we sense that it is just filler, to give the illusion that something is happening as the play wends its way, with no real blame and not a whole lot of regret, back to where it began.

The Mint production is, as we are coming to see is typical of them, impeccable, with director Gus Kaikkonen treating the play with absolute respect and thereby finding all its poignancy and humour. Jonathan Hogan, Jill Tanner and George Morfogen as the elderly trio lead an excellent cast.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  A Picture Of Autumn - Mint Theater 2021