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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
by Lizzie Loveridge
Set in San Francisco, successful architect and widower, Spencer (Jonathan Pryce) has a visitor on what would have been his twenty-ninth wedding anniversary, from his daughter Irene (Flora Montgomery). Irene, who is in her late twenties, has not been in touch with her father for eight months. Irene has been in therapy and has come to confront her father with scenes she recalls from her childhood. I don't want to detail all of the plot but Spencer's refusal to discuss or confess leads to litigation. There is a final scene between father and daughter, months after the conclusion of the court case, where Spencer offers an explanation of what he thinks might have happened.
The play is formed by a series of encounters between the two, in his apartment, his office, at the law firm, outside the courthouse and finally in her house. In each there is confrontation, hurt and anger. His for the accusation, hers for not being believed or even listened to by her father. Like a juror, I kept an open mind until the end of the play. It seemed unlikely that it was true, but what is worse than being a victim of sexual abuse? Being a victim and not being believed? Or, indeed, being falsely accused of abusing your own child? How would you react if you were innocent? Would you refuse to discuss it to help your child? Because whatever else has happened, the daughter believes it and needs help.
What A Reckoning does is to show the price paid by families for success. While Spencer is building his client base, his family is collapsing. It also shows us how, when at the height of the case, Spencer's friends and business melt away only to return - notoriety being good for business. Above all, like Charles Dickens' Bleak House, it illustrates that when lawyers get involved in family matters, everyone will lose out.
Jonathan Pryce gives a measured performance as the father. Irene is out of her league as Spencer illustrates when he notices that her lawyers' offices contravene the guidelines for buildings in the seismic fault area of California and sets his own litigation in process. In this scene Pryce allows us to see the high-powered architect, razor sharp and pro-active. There are dissembling moments too, why did he hide the glass and bottle of wine, in case he were judged for drinking alone? I liked her irritation and his embarrassment when she objects to being called her childhood nickname of Reenie. Flora Montgomery conveys the brittle and highly strung daughter, almost always on the verge of tears and obviously in distress.
There are amazing changes of set, using a turntable. A black mesh drop screen divides the cosy sitting room from views of the lights of the city. There is the severely minimalist architects' office and the lawyers modern meeting room. A Reckoning looks as if it has been architect designed even down to Spencer's clothes by Paul Smith.
Spencer's explanation for what Irene remembers is rather late in the day and this flaws the plot. But there is much to muse over and recommend in A Reckoning from the promising Wayne Moore.
Mendes at the Donmar
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
At This Theater
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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