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Peacefully At Home (Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Bridget (Joan McGee) and her family gather in the garden, while “upstairs” an unseen husband and father gradually loses his hold on life. As years of family tension bubble under the surface and new grievances rise to the top, it looks like Dad might be taking peace away with him.

The dialogue flows easily and naturally throughout Nicola Schofield's excellent script, creating an absorbing and intimate atmosphere in this small venue. The garden  (designed by Jonathan Ingham) is neatly created with a minimal set, yet the world inhabited by the characters is intensely believable as they react to events both on, and off-stage in the “house” - and the presence of Dad is felt strongly and poignantly by his absence.

The story is absorbing right from the outset, as different intrigues and tensions play out between the characters. Once family friend Una (Sheila Jones) learns Bridget's secret, the family is a hair's breadth from being blown apart at any moment; Bridget's relationship with her sons is not entirely perfect, and to add to the mix it's clear that aimless son Chris' (Lee Joseph) relationship with his sister-in-law goes back a long way. Joseph gives an utterly compelling performance as Chris struggles with his own demons, past and present, while attempting to prepare himself for his father's imminent death.

It's a shame that, due to the venue's layout, it's not always possible to see all the characters' faces from where you're sitting. Nonetheless, the piece still delivers on emotional intensity due to the high quality of the writing and acting. An all-too-believable and captivating family saga, in miniature.

- Harriet Chandler

(Reviewed at Taurus, Manchester)


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