Review: The City and the Town, Wiltons Music Hall 

Anders Lustgarten’s The City and the Town is full of fraternal strife at Wiltons Music Hall 

“You’ve not been here for 13 years”

Over the last decade, Anders Lustgarten has emerged as one of our most ferociously political writers. Plays like A Day at the Racists, Black Jesus and Lampedusa have raked across the state of the world today and his latest work is no different. A co-production between Riksteatern (the National Touring Theatre of Sweden) and Matthew Linley Creative Projects, with Hull Truck Theatre, The City and the Town has been touring the UK and a Swedish language version will cross the North Sea in the autumn.

This time round, the target is the hollowing out of working class northern communities and the role that has played is fomenting a new brand of the British far right. And the microcosm through which it is examined is the relationship between brothers Magnus and Ben, meeting up for the first time in thirteen years on the occasion of their father’s funeral. Ben headed south to become a successful lawyer but in thoroughly estranging himself from ‘home’, he’s left with some difficult truths to reckon with now.

The City and the Town is a somewhat old-fashioned play in its conceptualisation and construction, a slow drip of information leading us ever closer to the dustiest, deepest secrets in the family closet. And with Ben’s ex-girlfriend Lyndsey also present and correct with her own reasons and revelations in store, the unpeeling of layers of discontent and dissatisfaction with each other and the choices they’ve made, plus their own decision-making over the years, amasses into an explosive ending.

Given all this, Dritëro Kasapi’s production leans into the traditional with its single-room staging. There’s not quite enough dynamism to cover the stateliness of the first half when too much is not yet known. But Samuel Collings’ Ben, Gareth Watkin’s Magnus and Amelia Donkor’s Lyndsey bring life and depth to their roles, sympathies directed in unexpected ways as Lustgarten skewers middle-class blinkered attitudes as being as much of the problem as institutional neglect.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes (with interval)
The City and the Town is booking at Wiltons Music Hall until 25th February, then tours to Mercury Theatre, Colchester, 28 February – 1 March; Norwich Playhouse, 10-11 March; and Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 15-17 March  

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