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A CurtainUp London Review
Harper goes up north to the hospital to see her father but he is already dead. She hangs out in a pub with a strange man and ends up attacking him with a broken beer glass, runs away and meets another man through a website for casual sex in a hotel. This act is a kind of misguided revenge for what her husband has put the family through in their having to leave their home in Stockport to move south, the only place, where with few qualifications Harper could find a job. Stephens whose On the Shore of the Wide Worldwon best new play in the 2005 Olivier awards, based this new play on a real life incident where a man accused of a crime took what he perceived as the least painful course in pleading guilty only to find that this action had unintended consequences.
Marianne Elliott directs and gets wonderful performances from her cast. We know that Lesley Sharp has a depth and range which makes her one of today's stage actors who never disappoints, but playing Harper's daughter Sarah is newcomer Jessica Raine, who is not due to graduate from RADA until July this year. She is a natural who delivers a pitch perfect performance. Nick Sidi plays Harper's husband, Seth, the man who knows he has caused the family's woes but who needs the forgiveness of his family.
Harper Regan is one of these plays which has a slow burn, in fact much of the first act is setting the scene for the events and redemption of the second. There is a cameo "Patricia Routledge type" cloned performance from Susan Brown as Harper's insufferably difficult mother, all twin set, court shoes and Mrs Thatcher perm. Her smug security and banal prejudices contrast with the turmoil that her daughter is feeling.
Hildegarde Bechtler's versatile set takes us from the smoked glass office to a bridge over the canal using a gallery to the hospital, pub hotel and mother's house as well as the London house and garden. At each scene change whispering voices are heard repeating some of the lines we have just heard, the way we tend to go over conversations we have had in our head.
Harper Regan lets us go into the mind of a woman on the verge of a breakdown and lets us see the manifestation of that fracturing, but it also allows us to see how people can recover and forgive.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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