What this play lacks in subtlety it makes up for in suspense.
The veneer of nouveau riche eutopia is evidently paper thin from the outset; there’s something unnervingly strained about the music that opens the show; an obscure cover version of The Beatles track Words We Said Today in a minor key. The initial harmony of the Carver family’s status quo sits uncomfortably in the lounge of their Cheshire manor house where the play is set; something’s wrong but it’s hard to put one’s finger on what. The anticipation is delicious.
Sadly, this atmosphere is not sustained quite as successfully throughout. There is much skill in the script writing, some real truth in the family dynamics and in the characterisation, particularly deceptive Eddie as he gets caught up in his own web of lies. Some of the exposition is effortless and well judged, such as a wonderful sequence towards the conclusion where we realise the motivations for a secret visit to the doctor; but at times it seems a little too obvious and it becomes a case of 'when will it happen?' rather than 'what will happen next?'
Noreen Kershaw’s direction elegantly tackles a tricky challenge in staging the climax. Jodie Comer’s stage debut as Ruby, the teenage daughter, is confident, highly competent and equal to her experienced counterparts. Some variation in tone and pace in her monologue would really see her shine.
Andrew Dunn inhabits multi-faceted Eddie and negotiates his duplicity with apparent ease as Julie Riley switches between mother and wife as matriarch, Pam, at the same time as she laments relinquishing her beauty queen dreams and her independence.