Another little Tricycle triumph, this impeccably written Frank McGuiness ensemble piece is delightful. It’s a lovely premise; Garbo visits a rather unpleasant artist friend who is keen to flog his house to her, complete with the resident previous owners, the Hennessys, who fell on hard times and who now find themselves servants in what was their family home.
There are sub-plots galore: the feuding Sylvia and James, drunken firecrackers both, baulk at the expense of supporting their whirlwind of a daughter Colette through medical school; the artist Matthew and his young lover Harry stumble towards the end of their relationship; and Matthew’s manipulation of Garbo and the Hennessys reveals a fairly repellent self-centeredness. Central to it all, though, is the sweet sexual tension between Caroline Lagerfelt’s Garbo and Michelle Fairley’s housekeeper Paulie, a relationship so sensitively explored by McGuiness that the whole audience feels the tug of their parting.
The performances are uniformly excellent, with all the male characters revealing at some point a streak of real menace and Lisa Diveney showing real spice as the wilful Collette. Best of the bunch, though, is Fairley. Her Paulie is a woman of incredible spirit, the type of rock which could easily tip into cliché but is held in check by a tremendously warm performance.
It’s a touching, hilarious, beautifully set play, and continues what has been a fantastic run of critical successes at The Tricycle. It’s fast becoming one of the real theatre heavyweights in London, and deservedly so. I’m hoping to be back in May to see their Twelfth Night: it should be a stunner.
Kwame Kwei-Armah’s new play is showing at the Tricycle as part of its “Not Black and White” season. A satire about the choices made by a potential black mayoral candidate for London, the script is erudite and taut, particularly in the second act, and the performances first rate. Star plaudits go to Aml Ammen as Lavelle, a street thug with 11 a-grade GCSEs, a powerful radar for the politics of race and a screamingly obvious humanity. The celebrity candidate, Jeremy, is played with oodles of charm and winning naivety by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, but he makes the right choices in the face of pressure from Karl Collins’ venal kingmaker Howard Jones (not the 80s pop star, one of the characters points out). There are nice touches in the relationships between characters, particularly in the contrast between Jeremy’s sad, broken relationship with his wife Alice (Amelia Lowdell) and his testosterone-fueled affair with Susan (Sharon Duncan-Brewster), the girl who, bucking the trend in politics, really does turn out to be the love of his life.
Slickly directed by the author, the play, for all the humble venue and the lack of truly star names, is a hugely rewarding experience, and unravels black politics for an audience of whatever colour in a way that is effortlessly unpatronising.