You can guess we’re back in 1967 from the cluttered, psychedelically garish living room. There are also a couple of startling additions which seem to serve only a single purpose, whereas skewiff doors and window suggest distorted reality, an unsettling surrealism. You have to see it for yourself as they say; after all, for most of us, it would be impossible to imagine life with a disabled child.
Jessica Bastick-Vines is astounding as Joe – and how on earth do her parents cope? Ralf Little (Bri) and Rebecca Johnson (Sheila) also give stunning performances, literally magnetic as they attract and repulse each other in equal measure. She is splendidly robust, obsessive in her devotion and need for answers but although he gives an outstanding performance, while spoilt brat comes over clearly and we get the manic via constant gags, the quiet desperation is not overt enough to indicate depression.
The second half zips along, with the introduction of Marjorie Yates, pitch perfect as martyr cum battleaxe, Sheila’s mother-in-law. Just so, if more shrill, the appalling Pamela (Sally Tatum), a sanctimonious Patsy-lite, married to Freddie (Owen Oakeshott): horrifyingly well-meaning Swiss Tony. Friends like this make Jones-like neighbours as well as caricatures, but enable the discussion of controversial themes.
And add plenty of humour, pitch black; the sick jokes, outmoded language and attitudes are quite gob-smacking, culminating in the most tragic scene in the most farcical circumstances. Yet it is admirably balanced by compassion and pathos, accomplished by directly addressing and thus involving the audience.
Yes indeed, there but for the grace of God… and thanks to playwrights like Peter Nichols and theatre companies like the Playhouse and Rose Theatre, Kingston for giving us memorable performances like this.