The Last of the Haussmans
Lyttelton Theatre, London
Monday 9th July 2012
Playwright Stephen Beresford's debut work explores the coming together of a family of loving but distant dysfunctionals. Libby and Nick, children of the sixties, are presided over by their matriarchal hippy mother, Judy, as we watch their final weeks together.
The cast of characters are all wonderfully rounded and developed personalities, performed with exceptional skill. Julie Walters as Judy is a masterclass. Rambling around the stage with bare feet and waist-long grey hair, she embodies the extreme caricature of Judy's hippy background with depth and precision. A performance as engaging in silence as when she is energetically shouting down her family's interfering questions. However it is Helen McCrory as Libby and Rory Kinnear as Nick who between them carry the show. Libby's emotional journey is the most vacillating, and McCrory consistently portrays every level of emotion of the only convincingly realistic character in the play. Nick is a rather more cliché "victim" of his wayward upbringing, but Kinnear sensitively tackles the character, delivering some of the best lines of the night with a wry humour, but also a touching empathy in the reminiscent moments.
Considering the play lasted for two and three quarter hours very little seemed to happen. All the characters were given plenty of opportunity to develop, but very little reason to do so. The writing pieced together some lovely scenes and was full of witty humour and intelligently composed speeches, but once the characters were so convincingly introduced the progression of the plot became fairly predictable. Such subject matter and such characters deserved to tell a more cerebral tale. However, this production is polished to a shine and is worth watching for the simply absorbing performances from the whole cast.