Campbell made waves last year with his debut play The Pride in which three characters, and gay lives, were defined in different eras separated by fifty years, a sort of re-design for living. His second outing is ambitious but unevenly executed in Josie Rourke’s rambling, indulgent production.
Kristin Mille (Paola Dionisotti), who has a real big thing about Giotto, has made no mention of her sons in her memoirs. This omission grows to incubate a suggestion that she failed in her maternal duties while manning the barricades in Paris and marching in Grosvenor Square in 1968.
Her second son Simon (John Light), a struggling novelist, recounts how he was abandoned on a railway station in Genoa as a boy and picked up by a man who took him to his house. What happened isn’t made clear, but Simon was scarred for life by this mishap.
Campbell is registering a deeply felt point about bad parenting by the radical generation. He then backs off by mounting a sterling defence of the old bat in the rising anger of her friend Hugh (Philip Voss); she may have wanted to exchange WRP politics for a house in Islington, but there was something in her eyes that was genuine.
And the marriage had made her job as a mother very difficult. So the play evens out on all sides, and there’s even an unlikely but all too predictable post-feminist reconciliation between Kristin and her born-again Christian soon-to-be daughter-in-law Trudi (Sarah Goldberg).
The catalyst for this is the gift of a Liberian mask which hovers in the background on designer Peter McKintosh’s cluttered kitchen sideboard. First son Peter (Tom Beard) is a banker who’s found God, and Simon’s partner Claire (Nina Sosanya) is an actress who once played Nora in The Doll’s House but now features in a popular television soap; I think we’re meant to think that’s a come down, but I’m not sure.