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09 July 2012


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.  

Set in a beautifully realised home on the Devon coast, the staging is immaculate.  The enormous house, source of contention in the family as they fruitlessly bicker over inheritance, dominates the stage.  Revolving to suit the scene, the large windows allow us to see indoors while the action is outdoors, and vice versa, and even turn with a character's journey as they walk through the house.  Furnished to suggest the disrepair and clutter that summonsed the "worse than the Stasi" Resident's Association, each item had been carefully selected and fitted immaculately with the family. 

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.

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