To the National Theatre to see the much anticipated first play by actor Stephen Beresford The Last of the Haussmans.
In essence it's smart, rather than groundbreaking work. Beresford, like Chekhov in The Cherry Orchard, which it's impossible not to be reminded off, looks at the legacy of indulgence, but instead of turn of the century Russia, here we're transported to a crumbling seaside home, where flower power child of the sixties, Julia Haussman, played perhaps slightly too self-knowingly by Julie Walters, holds court with her two children Libby, dealing with a recent break up, Nick, her talented but demon riddled son and her granddaughter Summer. Literally and metaphorically the house is falling down and the children, brought up to sentimentally follow their own destines, are ill-equipped to stop the rot.
Helen McCory and Rory Kinnear have great fun as Libby and Nick, playing up to Walters tottering matriarch, and revelling in the finely tuned lines gifted to them - at one point Nick stuns his mother by telling her that the revolutionaries of his youth were Reagan and Thatcher, rather than the women of Greenham Common, who, he claims are now left doing nothing more important than managing donkey sanctuaries.
For a while now the search has been on for a meaningful 'right wing' play to challenge the liberal intelligentsia's version of recent history and contemporary society. The problem is that although Beresford sets up an interesting argument, the rambling nature of the work and his acerbic pen, leaves us, at best, ambivalent to the fate of the characters. In The Cherry Orchard, the offstage sound of the trees being chopped down, provides a metronomic urgency, that makes the play simultaneously vital and heartbreaking. Here, however, rather than feeling the Haussmans are a central metaphor for a dysfunctional society we're left struggling to see them as little more than the naive relics of impossible dream.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.