There’s a whole lot of morbid fascination in The House of Yes, Matthew Parker’s directorial swansong at the Hope Theatre
“Were you poor? Did you eat chicken pot pie?”
For his final show as a director, outgoing AD of the Hope Theatre Matthew Parker (interview here) has turned once again to the ever-so-slightly macabre, in reviving Wendy MacLeod’s 1990 The House of Yes. And in a rather pleasing note, a host of familiar faces can be spotted in the cast – Bart Lambert (Thrill Me), Fergus Leathem (Brimstone and Treacle), Colette Eaton (Her Aching Heart) are joined by Gill King and Kaya Bucholc to take a step way onto the dark side.
The Pascals live in Washington DC but though it is 20 years since JFK’s assassination, the shadow of the Kennedys looms large over this clan. And over a hurricane-swept Thanksgiving, twin siblings Marty and Jackie-O are set to be reunited, though as he’s bringing a new fiancée Lesly and she’s got a pills-addled mother and horny younger brother in tow, it is clear this ain’t going to be your average family gathering.
There’s an almost Grand Giugnol darkness at play here, as blood-curdling screams sit alongside machiavellian mindgames. And the way in which the family circles around newcomer/interloper Lesly is genuinely chilling, Bucholc nailing her scarcely believing incredulity while Eaton and Leathem work a wickedly fun Flowers in the Attic aesthetic, even as he ostensibly tries to pull away to something close to normalcy. Dark and twisted has nothing on this lot.
Which works to a point, especially in the dark opulence of Rachael Ryan’s design and the ominous rumble of Simon Arrowsmith’s soundscape. For me though, the morbid fascination with this set of characters only went so far. I craved more layers to MacLeod’s writing to give more of a hook into the personalities underneath the psychoses – Lambert manages this well as the angsty Anthony and so he’s the one character with a deeper level of interest to him.