Manor ★★ National Theatre | Nov 16, 2021 - Jan 1, 2022


The first thing to strike you about Fiona Buffini's production of her sister Moira's new play, Manor, is Lez Brotherston's amazing set. A gigantic staircase climbs like some sort of Jacob's Ladder almost to heaven, while windows and doors lean at crazy angles. A huge tempest rages outside beneath glowering grey skies shot with shards of lightning. Meanwhile, Lady Diana, the chatelaine of the manor, argues violently with her dissolute husband before the house is invaded by a motley crew of 'orphans of the storm.' Principal amongst these is Ted, an enigmatic right-wing political fanatic – rather like a slightly more charismatic Nigel Farage. The rapacious Diana doesn't take long before taking him below stairs for a sexual encounter. A doddery vicar, a black nurse, a blind girl, and a lesbian kiss all have their moments centre stage. It's as if Buffini has a checklist of topics to cram in. At this performance we found laughs to be scarce except at the expense of the fat lad or the elderly parson in his underpants. In this strange dystopian milieu the series of short scenes randomly follow each other and the actors frequently seem to have difficulty making the dialogue sound realistic. This is a production that deserves praise more for the effort than for the achievement. The National Theatre is renowned for its innovative and high-quality work, but unfortunately this show falls into the category of the valiant attempt.

Rated: ★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by Manuel Harlan.

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