“It’s like asking a halibut to understand a panther”
Most families have a story or three, the kind of tales that go down in folklore, destined to be repeated at family events no matter embarrassing for the parent/sibling/etc involved. I doubt many will have as good an anecdote as the Barcelona suitcase story which crops up midway through Again, making its world premiere at the Trafalgar Studios 2 in this Mongrel Thumb production.
The ways in which families tell and retell stories, communicating or struggling to communicate to each other, lies at the heart of what writer Stephanie Jacob is trying to achieve here. Married to a playful theatrical structure that emphasises how tricky saying the right thing can be (or unsaying the wrong thing…) but also which allows for infinite possibility, Again makes for an intermittently striking evening.
This particular family, as more and more these days do, have become estranged. Some time ago, Tom abandoned Louise for a younger woman and has started a new family, leaving their two children to get on with emotionally diverse consequences. Poetry lecturer Adam is hyper-reserved and looking at moving back in with mum and the disorganised Izzy is frantically unreliable. Brought together under the same roof for the first time in quite some time, what is there left to say?
Hannah Price’s production plays out in the clean lines of Anthony Lamble’s smart design and she ensures that her cast cultivate a real sense of shared history. The luminous Natasha Little is superb as Louise, a woman still ascertaining her role in life now she’s no longer a wife, now her kids are grown-up, and pleasingly nuanced in how complicated her relationship with Chris Larkin’s Tom remains, a soul who recognises what he has left behind whilst not quite regretting it.
As the perma-kids, Rosie Day and Charles Reston both acquit themselves well, amusingly petulant in that way that only being with family can bring out of you. And it is their responses to the nature of the narrative that really shine through, though there’s no doubting that the structure (a little bit Nick Payne, a little bit Caryl Churchill) carries with it a challenge which Sally Ferguson’s lighting could afford to better illuminate by being a little bolder.
Running time: 75 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Zute Lightfoot
Booking until 3rd March