Originally published in Theatre & Performance Magazine
One afternoon in 1934, Naomi is visited in her luxurious London home by her estranged sister Mercia. Mercia brings with her a collection of unwanted family memories of the past. Suddenly Naomi’s comfortable life with husband Lewis is brought into question, as she remembers long forgotten events from her past during the First World War. As they reminisce together, the sisters question the true meaning of the war – with everything they both lost during their younger years, were the sacrifices that they made truly worth it anymore?
John van Druten‘s writing for this production is honest and simple – there are no frills or sudden surprises in this plot. The style and pace is slow and at times feels weighty, especially with so much dialogue. The final scene by contrast seems slightly self-indulgent and it feels disjointed from the rest of the play at all.
The set too is very effective; the transition between the 1930s London elegance and the 1914 family home is really well designed by Victoria Johnstone. Key moments of the piece are well highlighted by Charlie Lucas’ lighting design, in particular the spotlight end to each half to focus the audience back on Naomi.
Sophie Ward delivers a harrowing performance as lead Naomi Jacklin and undergoes the greatest character transformation throughout the play. Her relationship with Mark Straker (as her husband Lewis Jacklin) is endearing, a stark contrast to Naomi’s first love Richard Newton-Clare (played by Gabriel Vick). Vick is full of zest and youthful exuberance compared with Straker’s poise and more mature presence.
This play is one for the more serious theatregoer, looking to explore larger philosophical ideas about war and sacrifice in a luxurious and intimate theatre setting.
Jermyn Street Theatre, London
Playing until 24th October 2014
Awarded 3 1/2 stars