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.
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.
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1950s and were declared instantly outdated with the arrival of John
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.
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.
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
push the point too hard, preferring to amuse himself and us with
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.
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