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.


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

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.

-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


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 Universi…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…