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A CurtainUp London Review
The play as we see it has Dimetos (Jonathan Pryce) an engineer and city leader living in the country by choice with his housekeeper Sophia (Anne Reid) and his young niece Lydia (Holliday Grainger). He convinces the suspicious country folk of his worth when he devises an ingenious plan to rescue the horse. Lydia wakes in the night screaming from a nightmare. When Danilo (Alex Lanipekun) searches for Dimetos to persuade him to return to the city he gets involved with Lydia. Dimetos encourages Danilo to stay and to dally with Lydia. Danilo and Lydia go out together and the evening ends when Danilo date rapes her, with Dimetos hidden in the bushes watching them. Lydia ten hangs herself.
In the second act Dimetos and Sophia are living further away from other people on the beach. Danilo has returned and accuses Dimetos of being a voyeur. The body of a woman is washed up on the beach, which rots and smells terrible, sending Dimetos mad, as he tries to construct a machine that will destroy time.
The programme tells us that Fugard has based this play on the Greek tragedy of Dimetos who had a guilty love for his niece who hanged herself. Bunny Christie's beautiful set has Dimetos surrounded by his craftsman's tools. The cast are dressed entirely in modern dress linen. The hanging scene is really shocking and explicit. There is the sound of a violin and creaking timbers as the girl is lowered into the pit with the trapped horse.
Jonathan Pryce is always a treat to see but this strange play has him looking lost as Dimetos is on his beach trapped by his guilty conscience. Anne Reid as Sophia is a sensible companion and servant but Holliday Grainger as Lydia's later scenes don't live up to her first scene promise. I liked Alex Lanipekun's young blood, a man of the city. Despite all the references to the waves and the atmospheric sounds I found it hard to compass this play, probably because the initial dilemma of a man obsessed with his niece did not resonate as a great tragic theme.