Coolidge Corner National Theatre NT
Nélida Nassar 10.15.2012
Stephen Beresford new play The Last of the Haussmans has its legacy in the 1960’s. It was the decade that has changed every country, irrevocably for the better and ushered social justice. The Last of the Haussmans is also another new English variation on Tchekov’s The Cherry Orchard, with a hopeless family seeing their property seized from under them. Beresford with canny phrases attempt to show the damages inflicted by the 1960s generation on their offspring. Nick’s accusation to his mother Judy such as “While you were wanking into a chrysanthemum, Margaret Thatcher was making her entrance.”
The plot leads us to a dilapidated house filled with physical, emotional angst and chaos where its main character Judy, is an old hippy who has just come through a minor cancer operation that reunites her with her family. Libby, her daughter has recently been dumped and has her own caustic daughter in tow and is anxious about her inheritance. Judy’s gay son, Nick is a former drugs addict living from hand to mouth, seeming even more desperate. In addition to this distraught family, a set of characters complete the plot with the local doctor and a troubled, pool-cleaning teenager.
The setting, brilliantly created by Vicki Mortimer, is a dilapidated art deco house on Devon’s south coast. Director Howard Davies gets gleaming performances from his cast. Julie Walters sensuously fondling her breasts as she urges the young pool-cleaner to “let the body take over” conveys the humor and the madness of the heroine as well as epitomize the attitude towards sex and body in the sixties. Helen McCrory is superb as Judy’s daughter who observes her mother with a mélange of vituperative anger and infuriated affection. Rory Kinnear conveys beautifully a sense of wasted intelligence as the ex-junkie son, and there is commendable presence from Matthew Marsh as the fake-revolutionary doctor. This is an evening to enjoy basking and reflecting on the social changes that occurred in the sixties from which we still benefit from today.
Originally Published in Berkshire Fine Arts