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A CurtainUp London London Review
Early Days

" It's like living on an alien planet. I speak the language but no one listens. I make the signs but nobody sees." — Sir Richard
Early Days
Simon Molloy as Sir Richard Kitchen (Photo: Charlie Kerson)
In a piece written for Sir Ralph Richardson, the Finborough revives David Storey's play about a senior politician in old age in the first London production for over 30 years. Simon Molloy plays Sir Richard Kitchen, who is both infuriating and charismatic, once a Minister of Health in presumably a Tory government, who looks back on his life and the 25 minute speech and a 15 minute interview that put an end to his career.

Now living with his daughter Mathilda (Abigail Bond) and son in law (Andrew McDonald), who have brought in the deferential ex-catering manager Bristol (Max Gold) to mind him, Sir Richard is full of contradictions. He left school at 12 and joined a party where he is not from the same class. His sanity comes and goes and he has moments of great lucidity and perception but is also prone to the outrageous, like urinating in a public place in the local village. This latest act was on the garden wall of someone whom he had asked if he might use her lavatory and of course his family is embarrassed and mortified. He is sometimes deliberately provocative, especially when he keeps asking who Mr Benson is. "Your son in law, " replies Bristol. So we have here three sides of Sir Richard, the demented, the faux demented and the perceptive.

At his most extremely deluded, he is trying to persuade his daughter and the GP (Andrew Glen) to elope together or fantasizing about a life in a Russian cottage, having defected from the UK. These are moments of humour in the play. He is fond of his granddaughter Gloria (Hannah Taylor Gordon) but annoys her, especially when he is critical of her poet fiancé Steven (Toby Manley).

Tim Newns' involving production is pitch perfect and the performance from Simon Molloy, hunched in his sagging cardigan, is moving and thought provoking. The outdoor set has the simplicity of a designer wooden garden bench, chairs and table, a window with lead flashing and a wooden trellis, dappled, grass green underfoot, plain yet arranged and confining as this man's life and freedom draw to a close. The soft lighting too reflects the time of day. The nostalgic sits with the fantastic, but the reality is the pain of a failed marriage, the "hard shell of existence" he describes and now the blandness of life with the professional minder Bristol.

Performances are telling: Andrew McDonald as the bombastic Benson, Abigail Bond as the worn out daughter and Hannah Taylor Gordon as the sparky and angry granddaughter. Max Gold's Bristol is impeccably correct but somehow he lacks empathy. Sir Richard talks about his childhood being his profoundest moment ..."after that all is anti-climax." David Storey's fine writing is descriptive and visual, "after the affair, she lay on the bed curled up like a mouse."

For intelligent plays which are realistic and make you think and laugh, the Finborough hits the spot yet again!

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Early Days
Written by David Storey
Directed by Tim Newns

With: Simon Molloy, Abigail Bond, Andrew Glen, Max Gold, Tony Manley, Andrew McDonald, Hannah Taylor Gordon
Set Design: Andy Robinson
Lighting: William Ingham
Costume Design: Clare Amos
Sound: Chris Barlow
Running time: One hour 05minutes without an interval
Box Office: 0844 847 1652
Booking to 2nd July 2013
A production from The Finborough Theatre and Five Wits
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 16th June 2013 performance at The Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED (Tube: Earls Court/West Brompton)

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