The play tells of how, on a bright autumn night in 2006, Uxbridge housewife Harper Regan walks away from her home, her husband and her daughter and keeps on walking. And for two lost days and nights, until it looks as though her entire life might unravel, she doesn’t turn back. Harper Regan explores themes of family, love, discovery and delusion, as its ever-present titular character struggles to deal with a series of personal crises.
Writer Simon Stephens, a former resident dramatist at the Royal Court, won best new play at the 2005 Laurence Olivier Awards for On the Shores of the Wide World, which also had its London premiere in the NT Cottesloe. His follow-up, Motortown proved a critical success in 2006. Known for his authentic and often brutal studies of working-class life, Stephens’ other works include Bluebird, One Minute, Country Music and Pornography.
While overnight critics were somewhat lukewarm in their response to Harper Regan, there was almost unanimous praise for Lesley Sharp’s in the title role. Sharp, who remains onstage throughout, was described variously as “wonderful”, “stunning” and “deserving of awards”. However, despite the strength of Sharp’s central performance, many critics had reservations about the play's “artistically misjudged” use of graphic violence and often “meandering” narrative.
- by Theo Bosanquet