Tash Fairbanks and Toby Wharton’s play opened at the Park Theatre last night (24 October 2013)

Finishing its UK tour which started at the Finborough, Fog presents Gary (Toby Wharton) and his splintered family destroyed by abuse and drugs. Within a new apartment Fog and his father Cannon (Mark Leadbetter) try to start a new life while sister Lou (Anna Koval) attempts to start her own life free from the past. The story is familiar, yet this depiction is so perfect as to make the entire premise completely fresh.

A concrete wall and flickering light bulb make up the set and this is the perfect minimalist backdrop to foreground a superb cast. Mark Leadbetter‘s Cannon is a man of violence and his strain to contain this marks his every movement on stage. Wharton perfectly conveys a sense of youthful naivety tempered by a crushing hard edge that was honed in his abusive upbringing and his performance is utterly believable. Anna Koval’s Lou, Benjamin Cawley’s Michael and Kanga Tanikye-Buah’s Bernice round out the cast with achingly honest depictions of poverty-wracked Londoners.

The cast’s control of the pace and tone of the piece is masterful, supported by Tash Fairbank’s and Wharton’s script. Moments pregnant with anguished, unspoken hurt and hatred are captured perfectly with heavy exchanges that Pinter could not have scripted better. Characters bat almost inane comments around the room for petty entertainment as a sinister atmosphere envelops their lives. It is pervasive, perverse and fantastically compelling.

Where they are strongest is in their unexpected injection of warmth into such a dour and depressing setting. There is no escaping the crushing reality forced on the audience in Fog but the natural back-and-forth dialogue gives the piece a unique glow that in the end, makes the tragedy all the more potent.

£20 tickets (a benevolent discount for N4 residents somewhat softens the blow) for a play based on council flat poverty and the strait-jacket of class is inescapably irritating but the depth and quality of Fog cannot be denied. This is a triumphant return to London and another chance to experience a master class in honest realism.

– Patrick Brennan