Writer: Joseph Kesselring
Director: Tony Casement
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
The Public Reviews Rating:
The good spinsters see their role in Brooklyn society as easing the loneliness of perspective tenants. Their brand of social care, though, is unusual to say the least.
At over 70 years old, Joseph Kesselring’s black comedy may be able to lay claim to be a senior citizen itself but any creaks are likely to come from doors opening menacingly than any issue with scripts.
Dawn Allsopp’s impressive set provides plenty of scope for creaking doors; her multi-level gothic design a gloriously dark creation with plenty of hidden secrets. From the gravestones peeking in through the window, to the secrets in the cellar, it’s clear that the macabre hangs heavy over this household.
As our sweet old ladies plot to expand the body count in their cellar, their nephews have problems of their own. Mortimer has plenty of tongue in cheek humour sending up theatre critics, while younger sibling Jonathan, bearing an uncanny likeness to Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s monster, has only a tenuous connection with reality. When the third nephew believes he is President Roosevelt it’s clear this is no normal family. As Mortimer says ‘Insanity doesn’t run in this family – it gallops’.
It’s typical farce fare and Tony Casement’s direction has great fun with the material but, at two and a half hours, it does seem somewhat overlong. The traditional three act format has been turned into two, making for a long second half.
What redeems the length, though, are some remarkable performances. Christine Absalom and Liz Crowther provide just the right mix of darkness and insanity but, despite their serial killer tendencies, there’s a sense of warmth and humour here, you can easily imagine either appearing on an American Apple Pie box.
As the nephews Ignatius Anthony, Ian Kirky and Tim Treslove have great fun with the absurdity, with highly physical performances that sees them flinging themselves across the multiple levels.
It’s an ambitious production from the Mercury Theatre, a large set and large company but the capacity audiences show that despite the age of the play, and its protagonists, it’s a popular choice.
The length of the piece does prove to be something of distraction with the combined second and third acts in particular making for a somewhat unbalanced evening but, thanks to the efforts of the company, it’s a minor quibble in an otherwise enjoyable evening.
Just beware the next time a sweet maiden aunt offers you a glass of homemade wine.