Thumbs up for Rory Kinnear's debut The Herd
Rory Kinnear's writing debut ''The Herd'' opened at the Bush Theatre last night (18 September 2013). Starring Kenneth Cranham, Louise Brealey and Amanda Root, it runs until 26 October
…Kinnear… has written a more generally applicable dark comedy about family life. He goes too far, and says the unsayable, as all good drama should. The accusatory tone between these big-hearted, petty-minded, terrifyingly normal people is one we all recognise and, if we don't, we're fooling ourselves. I'm not bracketing Kinnear with Eugene O'Neill, but there's a similar quality of finding the blood in your own tears. Howard Davies's production grips like a vice, developing painfully into a pretence at reconciliation and champagne jollity… I can't recall a more savagely angry performance than Root's as Carol, while Calder-Marshall queens it shockingly as a suburban Lady Bracknell in cardigans.
Rory Kinnear… has now written a first play that, while not startlingly original in form or content, contains some good meaty roles and, in Howard Davies's production, displays the kind of emotional dynamism one associates more with American than British drama… On the level of domestic realism, the play works well. Kinnear clearly understands the tensions of family life… Much of the two-hour evening's pleasure lies in simply watching a tip-top team of actors bonding under Davies's assured direction… there is good work from Adrian Rawlins as the intrusive Ian and Adrian Bower as the accomodating poet. I look forward to Kinnear's next work, even if I hope he goes a bit wild and escapes from well-established forms.
…it is this remarkable debut play of his, a family drama that slowly grows to an overwhelming pitch, that almost puts him in a class of his own… This is a play of emotions rather than ideas but, even so, while it begins on a disconcertingly prosaic note – with shades of a soap-opera about it too – it digs deep beneath the surface-portrait of a middle-class family in extremis to ask profound questions about how reconciliation can be achieved and love restored… All the roles represent gifts for actors and director Howard Davies has cast from the top-rank. Amanda Root is perfect… Louise Brealey catches superbly the sense of a daughter who has bitten her tongue for too long… With Adrian Bower completing the company as the interloping Mark… this play warrants nothing less than a box-office stampede.
Rory Kinnear… makes an accomplished play-writing debut… What at first seems a mild comedy of manners, albeit with several hints of strain, becomes a raw drama in which simmering resentments boil over. Kinnear writes truthfully about the pleasures and agonies of intimate relationships. Though much of the play is sensitive and tender, there are moments of fury. After a sedate opening — perhaps a little too sedate — the revelations spew forth and the production by Howard Davies intensifies. There are nicely detailed performances… The most magnetic work comes from Adrian Rawlins… and Anna Calder-Marshall… Kinnear creates meaty roles. No character is without interest and the dialogue tingles with well-observed idiosyncrasies. This is a vivid and unsentimental portrait of domestic life, flecked with wry humour… Kinnear's voice doesn't yet feel bracingly distinctive, but it is satisfyingly wise.
...The piece sometimes feels a bit awkward, as though it has set out on a conscious mission to instruct. Nevertheless, its observations on how extreme disability can call forth all-consuming devotion, and on the intractability of the blame game that then ensues with those who feel they have been sacrificed, are keenly felt. Director Howard Davies's beautifully acted production does rich justice to the weave of painful insights and playful humour. Kenneth Cranham exudes gruff warmth as the grandfather who himself needs help with moving around, and Anna Calder-Marshall brings a deliciously sly comic timing to the part of Patricia, the imperious grandmother who reacts to the news that Claire's boyfriend (Adrian Bower) is a performance poet with a lovely little flinch of sceptical forbearance.