Split into three segments, and exceptionally well-acted by all concerned, Martin Crimp’s new play doesn’t find much to recommend either getting together with one’s nearest and dearest or the self-obsessed nature of life today.
“Destruction of the Family” begins conventionally enough (we could almost be in Ayckbourn territory) but breaks into a very unseasonal song delivered by the two teenage daughters –one pregnant, the other (in-yer-face Ellie Kendrick) envious of the special treatment – and presents – her sibling’s condition affords her.
Meanwhile Dad (Stuart McQuarrie) has removed all the lightbulbs to save electricity, Granny (Anna Calder-Marshall’s retired doctor) happily discusses going out to buy porn for Peter Wight’s Grandad, and Emma Fielding’s tight-lipped Mum tries to keep things under control – only to be further thwarted by the arrival of her almost certainly deviant brother, Uncle Bob, delivering messages of vitriol on behalf of his own wife Madeleine.
“The Five Essential Freedoms of the Individual” involves a swift switch to a brightly lit cross between a therapy session and a confessional television programme in which the unassigned lines of dialogue launch a scattergun attack on modern preoccupations – from “moving on” to, ironically, the concept of being different and writing one’s own life script.
Finally, it’s just Paul Ready’s now needy Uncle Bob, an empty vista visible through the window of their almost empty room, unhappily singing their “100% happy song” with frequent prompts from Michelle Terry’s cool, glammed up Madeleine.
Guaranteed to alienate some with its unconventional approach, Dominic Cooke’s production proves intriguing, amusing and irritating by turns. It doesn’t exactly add up to a coherent whole, but individual moments, first rate performances and Roald Van Oosten’s music help overcome most of the frustrations elicited by Crimp’s absurdist satire
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS
Tube: Sloane Square
Until 19th January
£10 – £28
Images: Johan Persson