The Quiet House***+ (Park Theatre)

Posted: June 9, 2016 in Theatre

quiet houseThis review was originally written for The Reviews Hub: http://www.thereviewshub.com

Who would ever want kids? As infants, they fill the house with noise and then they grow to become uncontrollable delinquents. Gareth Farr begins his play, first seen at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, with these propositions and then tells us how the couple around which it centres want nothing more in the world than to become parents. Jess (Michelle Bonnard) and Dylan (Oliver Lansley), both 34, have been together for five years and the biological clock is ticking, Conventional methods of conceiving have failed and, in increasing desperation, the couple resort to IVF treatment. We get a clear insight into the indignity, discomfort and embarrassment that they endure together and into the disruption to their regular lives. Dylan is seen underachieving in his job as his domestic problems take over his life to become his sole priority. Farr strives not to make any of this too heavy and styles sections of the play like a television sitcom, perhaps “My Family Yet to Be”. After his encounter with unruly kids in a local shop, an agitated Dylan dances around as if barefoot on hot coals, ignoring Jess who has donned an “expensive” nightgown because he must impregnate her at this precise moment. As often happens with sitcoms, everyone seems to be trying too hard to make things funny, but, by building on these foundations, Farr finds it easier to apply a light touch to later scenes that could have become harrowing. Two sketchily drawn secondary characters also seem as if they have come straight out of a sitcom. Kim (Allyson Ava-Brown) is an incontinent new mother who lives in the flat above with her squawking babe in arms and Tony (Tom Walker) is Dylan’s work colleague who seems incapable of acknowledging that a world exists outside the four walls of his office. The play is at its strongest when the comedy subsides. Jess holds conversations with her not yet conceived baby and it is as if she is grieving for the unborn. The resolve of Dylan and then Jess wavers, but the strength of their mutual support is gently moving, shown to particular effect when they waltz together while Tom Odell’s track Grow Old With Me plays in the background. Poignantly, we know that just growing old together is not enough for either of them. The changes of tone and style are handled well by director Tessa Walker in a production that is always sympathetic to Farr’s themes. The set design by Ana Inés Jabares-Pita, a modern, purely functional flat furnished in white, cleverly suggests a dwelling that is waiting for the arrival that will clutter it and turn it into a home. There are a few occasions when the play misses the mark awkwardly and, even though the running time is only 100 minutes, Farr still diverts the story unnecessarily up some blind alleys. However, overall, sensitive writing and two compelling performances take us along with Jess and Dylan on their journey and make us root for them to succeed.

Performance date: 8 June 2016

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