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A CurtainUp London Review
Now living with his daughter Mathilda (Abigail Bond) and son in law (Andrew McDonald), who have brought in the deferential ex-catering manager Bristol (Max Gold) to mind him, Sir Richard is full of contradictions. He left school at 12 and joined a party where he is not from the same class. His sanity comes and goes and he has moments of great lucidity and perception but is also prone to the outrageous, like urinating in a public place in the local village. This latest act was on the garden wall of someone whom he had asked if he might use her lavatory and of course his family is embarrassed and mortified. He is sometimes deliberately provocative, especially when he keeps asking who Mr Benson is. "Your son in law, " replies Bristol. So we have here three sides of Sir Richard, the demented, the faux demented and the perceptive.
At his most extremely deluded, he is trying to persuade his daughter and the GP (Andrew Glen) to elope together or fantasizing about a life in a Russian cottage, having defected from the UK. These are moments of humour in the play. He is fond of his granddaughter Gloria (Hannah Taylor Gordon) but annoys her, especially when he is critical of her poet fiancé Steven (Toby Manley).
Tim Newns' involving production is pitch perfect and the performance from Simon Molloy, hunched in his sagging cardigan, is moving and thought provoking. The outdoor set has the simplicity of a designer wooden garden bench, chairs and table, a window with lead flashing and a wooden trellis, dappled, grass green underfoot, plain yet arranged and confining as this man's life and freedom draw to a close. The soft lighting too reflects the time of day. The nostalgic sits with the fantastic, but the reality is the pain of a failed marriage, the "hard shell of existence" he describes and now the blandness of life with the professional minder Bristol.
Performances are telling: Andrew McDonald as the bombastic Benson, Abigail Bond as the worn out daughter and Hannah Taylor Gordon as the sparky and angry granddaughter. Max Gold's Bristol is impeccably correct but somehow he lacks empathy. Sir Richard talks about his childhood being his profoundest moment ..."after that all is anti-climax." David Storey's fine writing is descriptive and visual, "after the affair, she lay on the bed curled up like a mouse."
For intelligent plays which are realistic and make you think and laugh, the Finborough hits the spot yet again!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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