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Theatre Review A production that misses the mark on many levels

Political tirades, prophetic end-of-world visions, broad, sit-com style humour and trite caricatures do not blend, writes SIMON PARSONS

Manor
Lyttelton Theatre

MIX together an insolvent, forthright lady of the manor, a drugged-up former pop star, a blind anti-feminist revisionist historian, a supposedly charismatic far-right leader, a hypochondriac slob, a radical black working-class student and her would-be detective, medically trained mother and throw in a dash of aged vicar in underpants and pink fluffy jumper and you might expect a revival of the Carry On tradition.

Put all these ingredients in a physically skewed Restoration manor house on the point of being washed away in a storm of biblical proportions and throw in a dead body and a pinch of ghostly sound effects for seasoning and expectations might slide towards gothic horror or political allegory.

Moira Buffini’s play is none of these.

Manor misses the mark on so many levels. Political tirades, prophetic end-of-world visions, broad, sit-com style humour and trite caricatures do not blend successfully in this drawn out mishmash of elements. Even the shift between counterposed scenes involving different characters’ machinations, arguments and soul-searching leave actors high and dry, waiting on their next gobbet of flavouring.

Buffini has sourced her ingredients so widely, incorporating a far-right political agenda, global warming, a crumbling historical class structure and social tensions and drawn on an Agatha Christie style approach for a series of we-know-whodunnit dramatic events that it fails to satisfy at any level.

Moira’s sister Fiona directs but is unable to salvage much more than some half-hearted laughs and a general sense that we would all be better off, caring more about each other and the world around us. Neither sibling will rush to remember this creation.

Lez Brotherston’s Edgar Allen Poe style set and a spectacular storm help salvage the piece from being a totally uninspired theatrical disappointment and the hard-working cast do their best with this unsatisfying blend of ingredients but the fare is saturated with unoriginal ingredients in quantities and combinations that just do not work.

Runs until January 1 2022, box-office: nationaltheatre.org.uk

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