Saturday, 17 October 2009

Surrey Mirror: Review of 'The Family'

The first official review of 'The Family' is available here:

Or read it below:

Review: The Family at The Archway Studio Theatre, Horley
Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 17:33

'The Family'
The Archway Studio Theatre, Horley

Reviewed by Tony Flook

Redhill-based Bradley Barlow is a man with a fertile imagination. A massive creative leap took him from him seeing Paula Rego's painting entitled 'The Family' which, he says, was one of his inspirations, to him writing his first play, recently premiered at The Archway's Studio Theatre.

Very little in The Family is as it seems. The only certainties are that England is at war with itself (indicated in the programme to be a civil uprising against Parliament) and that Peter, a soldier for the rebels, has come home to his sister Beth after a long absence. It is a dark, near-humourless piece that builds tension slowly, inexorably and grips through to the end, rather like a book in which one can barely wait to learn the next revelation.

As Barlow directed the production himself, he knew exactly how he envisaged its staging. He could not have hand-picked a better cast to interpret his characters.

Mandy Humphrey brought Beth frighteningly to life as she applied her ever tightening vice-like hold on her brother. Peter Westmacott (Peter) showed the trauma of a man who has been involved in the horrors of prolonged guerrilla warfare but who, even now, cannot escape his personal demons. His initially raw leg wound and, later, stained bandage were reminders of the bloody action he survived.

Emma, a local girl, seems to offer Peter some respite from his waking as well as sleeping nightmares. Ella Sowton was convincing as this, the play's only well balanced personality.

Athletic David Robson was the enigmatic, menacing Soldier who arrived at the house unexpectedly and whose presence was definitely unwelcome.

The set, largely housed within the stark curve of the studio's arched wall added a claustrophobic dimension to the kitchen, cluttered yet basic after years of shortage. Peter and Beth's clothes reflected this deprivation, while Emma's summery attire introduced a lightness, reflecting at least some semblance of normality. John Hankin's vertical bed, where several crucial incidents were played out, was an inspired idea.

Some works by new writers are aired once then sink from view. The Family deserves to be considered by other groups willing to take risks with a challenging but worthwhile play.

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