Smallholding (Southampton)

Smallholding is based around the over familiar subject of a disintegrating relationship. The play opens as married couple, Andy and Jen, arrive at a dilapidated farmhouse. Andy is a drug addict and because of this their daughter has to live with Jen’s parents, who will only give her back if the pair can sort out their lives and make a success of the farm.

Sadly it is obvious where the story is going. Chris New dominates the production as Andy. He makes every opportunity to posture and spout empty words. He promises a lot but does not deliver, and he then tries to avoid the subject whilst acting irresponsibly. Matti Houghton is the more proactive of the two as Jen, who hopes to start a new life on the farm, yet has to put up with Andy’s lack of responsibility in the first few scenes.

The play does not lead the audience into the story gradually. The first half is basically a downward slide into hardship. It does however pick up when, at their last tether, the couple resort to drugs. The highlight of this production is a Christmas scene, where they imagine they are having a party with Jen’s parents and their daughter.

Between each scene the play jumps ahead a few weeks to keep the plot going, though it does jump a couple of years for the last scene and only gives the audience a general idea of what has happened. The play also continuously brings up references to people and certain objects, such as an oar that Andy claims to be the one that Steve Redgrave used in the Olympics. It feels as if there is meant to be theme behind these references yet by the end they are forgotten.

Thankfully the play consists of one act and the jumps in time means it moves at a good pace. Yet the overall story has been done before, and it is hard to relate to the characters for that reason. The set is simple comprising of a few doors and some furniture, though a bizarre moment occurred during an inordinately long scene transition at the end. The play does not bring anything else to the proceedings to keep the audience interested.