Skip to main content

The Last of the Hausmanns

I like doing theatre at the National. Southbank has much more of a cultural event feel about it - particularly at night after one leaves, being able to take a moment to appreciate the illuminated some of St Paul's. The last play I saw there was Hamlet, played by Rory Kinnear, who was astounding. So it was with some expectation that he was also starring in Last of the Haussmanns - although he has to contend with the household name of Julie Walters, who plays the last Haussman of the title. Judith Haussman, or Judy as her grown up son, Nick, (Kinnear) and daughter, Libby, (Helen McCrory) also call her. Nick, a former drug addict, has returned home to the dilapidated art deco family home on Brighton's coast after a lengthy absence. He is gay and wears make-up, yet I could still see, in some scenes, the shadow of his late father. Maybe because this is a comedy - a somewhat dark one - but a comedy nonetheless. He has squandered whatever talent he may have had and, although a former drug addict, still has the demon drink p deal with. But then, it would seem they all have this to contend with. Helen McCrory as Libby is the strongest presence throughout and her anger is visceral; anger towards her hippyish Mum, anger towards her brother, anger towards herself. She is the one who has tried to hold a sense of responsibility close, yet, from the waspish exchanges with her 15-year old daughter, we also learn that she too has played the wandering Mum. Add a seemingly disaffected pool boy to the story, and a family doctor who also joins the party early one but who sets off alarm bells, and an inheritance, and there are a lot of dynamics flying around. To view this family and their social context - having become the house that has let the otherwise classic high-end second-home territory down - is to see the whole play as a statement on the baby boomer generation. Judy represents the travelling hippies in the sixties who, as they age and face health issues, have to depend on their kids to mop up afterwards. The same adult kids who then struggle to get any property of their own. It's all here, with Judy urging them, during one particularly powerful kitchen scene, to live light; not to focus on possessions. A statement for our times, perhaps, as the second-homers continue to take it in in the city, buying expensive second-homes whilst locals priced up and out of these areas.
It is a marvellous script from debut playwright and seasoned actor Stephen Beresford; to have a debut play staged at the National is no small achievement. The dialogue is sharp and hits a regular beat and the characterisation couldn't be faulted. The audience loved it. The comedy achieved the a tone that made way for a poignancy that lingered after the final curtain.

Location:Kew

Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

My PhD critical paper

The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston University, without which postgraduate study of this nature would have remained firmly beyond reach - as it is - and becomes even more so - for countless others who would relish this hard, yet rewarding journey of growth.
Thanks are due to my brothers and sisters, particularly my older brother, Sean.

Behind this PhD candidate was a fellowship of brilliant friends, whose kind and wise words, often amounting to no more than 'keep going' encouraged me in the low moments. And, of course, to the spirit of Mary Burns (1822-1863) - no mere mistress.


No endeavour is the work of an individual.


SECTION ONE
Revolution, Rom…

Anything is Possible - Elizabeth Strout

Two days ago I bought the hardback of Strout's latest, Anything is Possible. I finished it yesterday evening. This is a 'novel of inter-connected stories', which features the fictional writer Lucy Barton, of My Name is Lucy Barton (blogged about already). We learn more about Lucy's brother, still in the dusty old town of Amgash, Illinois - the setting that is the main character. The Guardian claims it to be a 'shimmering masterpiece', and I agree.

Strout's work is often described as 'quietly written', and she is said to have 'a touch of Updike and Tyler'. Quietly written is one of those descriptions that means the 'sparse' writing provides the atmosphere into which the reader gladly sinks to enjoy a story of flawed and pained characters without being distracted by a 'writerly' approach. I have never sunk into Updike or Tyler, but her writing reminds me more of Richard Yates. But why liken her to anyone at all? It seems to be …