You need to say this used to be a play a couple of typhoon in a teacup – and that might be apt, because it’s set in and round this kind of English rural vicarage the place tea is reliably the lubricant of parish industry. On this case, even though, the vicar himself prefers his refreshments significantly more potent.
Stephen Beresford’s new drama, a co-production with Chichester Competition Theatre, is ready a churchman’s disaster of judgment of right and wrong occasioned by means of the bereaved mom’s call for for balloons at her daughter’s funeral. Which is paramount – the respect, solemnity and protocol of the church, or a small convenience for a grieving lady?
The motion of Beresford’s play, which gently – very gently – interrogates notions of integrity, religion, circle of relatives, and the commodification of private revel in, hinges on that query. For those who suppose the solution’s evident, chances are you’ll to find impatience creeping in as Nicholas Hytner’s manufacturing easily units out the arguments. However when you like your drama mournfully fun and devoutly out of date, and your provocations gentle, that is as reassuringly stress-free as a just right cuppa.
We’re in a small West Nation the city the place the outdated trades of shipbuilding and fishing have given approach to name centres, vacationer tat and unemployment. Mark Thompson’s meticulously life like set – the vicarage inner set in opposition to a looming trompe l’oeil church tower – highlights the way in which through which the home of God is each a landmark, however has additionally change into, because the native physician’s spouse places it, only a “backdrop” – picturesque, a pleasant location for a marriage or a selfie.
It’s presided over by means of Alex Jennings as Church of England vicar David Highland – infamous amongst his flock for boozing, philandering and using beneath the affect. Regardless of his not up to spotless popularity, David stays resolute concerning the sanctity of his church.
And when Tina Southbury (Sarah Twomey) requests Disney balloons hooked up to the pews and altars, to present her little lady a fairytale send-off, he obstinately attracts the road. Faith – and dying – are about “magic and thriller”, however now not simple glad endings, he insists.
A social media-fuelled outcry ensues, inspired by means of Tina’s estranged brother Lee (Josh Finan), who for his personal causes is determined to catch up on a flawed he has achieved his sister and to get again into her just right graces. Quickly the Highlands are beneath assault: abusive graffiti seems on their home windows, dogshit arrives throughout the put up. A tender curate (Jack Greenlees) is shipped to supply give a boost to till the tempest passes.
That David has selected a molehill to die on is identified to him time and again by means of his circle of relatives and parishioners: Beresford’s level is that it’s the small issues that rely, as bland, consumerist modernity numbs us to the fundamental and existential, sweeping away our deeper reference to the non secular and with our human situation.
The discussion is sparky, however not one of the characters really feel absolutely realised. Phoebe Nicholls as David’s snarky, sour spouse Mary, and Jo Herbert as his repressed primary-teacher daughter Susannah are thinly, and too in a similar way, drawn; and Racheal Ofori as his Black followed daughter Naomi, who grew up struggling racist bullying, moved away and has change into a celebrated actor, turns out to exist simplest to facilitate a few schematic plot issues. Slinking round in a collection of micro-minis and thigh boots, allotting sultry seems to be and sulky aphorisms, she feels (thru no fault of the superb Ofori’s) much less like a real individual than an under-developed thought.
A flurry of melodramatic contrivances in the second one act sit down apparently with the full sourly comedian, social realist tone, and it’s simplest truly within the ultimate, wrenching scene that we’re absolutely emotionally engaged, the uncooked grief of Twomey’s Tina over her kid’s coffin a devastating intestine punch. That war of words with mortality, is after all, in part what Beresford is getting at: but it surely’s a sip of actual efficiency in a play that slips down a little bit too simply.
The Southbury Kid is on the Bridge Theatre to 27 August. E book The Southbury Kid tickets on London Theatre.