Saturday, 2 May 2015

'Ah Wilderness!' at The Young Vic

Last week we went to see 'Ah Wilderness!' by Eugene O'Neill at The Young Vic. I have a mixed relationship with the Young Vic theatre and it's productions - it seems to have a love/hate effect on me. The last things I saw there were 'Happy Days' with Juliet Stevenson and, before that, the great production of 'The Scottsboro Boys' so I went with an open mind (far more open than any of the Tennessee Williams plays in the last few years). I still have the horrors at the thought of that version of 'Hamlet' with Michael Sheen… So here we are, Eugene O'Neill in a sandpit, what more could one ask for?

Yes, a sandpit. Why? I don't know. We have the wooden boards of a dilapidated house setting the boundaries of a house that is full of sand and sandbanks. But this is a terribly bourgeoise house where the father is a newspaper owner and the sons go to university so what's with the sand? It proved to be a real distraction for me since I kept returning to the sand every time someone walked back and forth over it, particularly Janie Dee as the mother who seemed to totter around it on very unsteady feet. Why on earth have an uneven sandpit in the middle of the house? I'm perplexed. I kept returning to the sandpit at the expense of the play. Form over substance I suspect.

It's a coming of age play with the son being an overly-dramatic young poet wanting to follow his predecessors (played my George MacKay who was Bromley in the film 'Pride') and his parents worry and care for him, realising that their son is growing up. Set on the fourth of July celebrations that go wrong with the drunken uncle spoiling dinner and the son going off to the local dive and staying out all night but then everything comes right in the end (as it must) on the next day.

Despite worrying about who might be the first to trip and fall down the stupid sand-banks, I quite enjoyed the play. I liked Janie Dee as the somewhat hesitant mother and Martin Marquez as the laid-back father. Dominic Rowan was a bit over the top as the drunken uncle but he was fun all the same and risked life and limb getting up on that table to rant a bit. George MacKay was great as the son and it'll be good to see him as something other than an idealistic young man.

 Well done people. It took a while to get going but I enjoyed he play. But please - ditch the sand dunes?

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