Dreams of Violence, Stella Feehily’s latest play is about a dysfunctional family. Presented by Out of Joint, a touring company who specialise in new works, the play arrives in Manchester after a run in the West End.
The lead character, Hildy (Catherine Russell), belongs to the sandwich generation, responsible for her parents and drug addicted son and suffering guilt about her neglect of them. A political activist, she puts causes before caring even leading a cleaners’ revolt against bankers. No surprise then that husband, Ben, (Nigel Cooke) is leaving her.
In one of few amusing scenes we see the dramatic effect his new prop, Viagra, has on his love life with new girlfriend Honey (Thusitha Javasundera). But, unfortunately, these laughs are few and far between.
Max Stafford-Clark, the director, wisely emphasises character rather than plot. One example features Paula Wilcox as Hildy’s mum, Shirley, a self-loving alcoholic who never lets you forget she was a pop star in the sixties. Paula takes you back to that time in song but looks far too young to be a pensioner.
Hildy’s father, Jack, a former roadie now in a nursing home doesn’t take his situation lying down. Claran McIntyre plays him as a tough Irishman fighting an impossible battle against authority. Meanwhile son Jamie (Jamie Baughan), now off the weed, makes an unexpected return to the nest which, in a well played scene, shocks his mother so much she ends up in hospital.
Russell’s Hildy is, on the whole, a successful pivot on which the cast depend though we never quite learn why she has such passionate political views. But the writer doesn’t say whether something happened in her childhood or adolescence to prompt her to carry placards in support of the low paid.
Hildy suffers nightmares featuring violence against her loved ones, described with passion by Catherine. Could unconscious hatred of them be the cause? So many unaswered questions remain as the play lacks a defined plot and leaves you wondering what its aim is. The audience can only come up with an isolated chuckle even though it is billed a riotous comedy.
Despite the confusing material over-laden with stereotypes and difficult to follow lightning fast scene changes, the actors do a good job, but considering it's credentials, Dreams Of Violence ultimately disappoints.