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A CurtainUp London London Review
Hard Feelings

"Freedom to rot. That's all this country has given me" — Viv
Hard Feelings
Annie (Margaret Clunie) Viv (Isabella Laughland) and Rusty (Jesse Fox) (Photo: Simon Anand)
It is remarkable how untouched this group of English graduates from Oxford are by the riots happening on their doorstep in Brixton, London, in Doug Lucie's 1981 play. Only Tone (Callum Turner), and not an Oxford man, but a left-wing journalist with working class roots, is interested in the news, the political context of the play. It is really about the relationship between this group who are all 24 or 25 to each other and the power struggle between their landlady Viv (Isabella Laughland) and her tenants and their boyfriends. The sirens are constant on the outside as police try to quell the rioters but the fighting here is inside the house.

The accuracy of the arguments and petty sniping against one member of the household rings disturbingly true of the bullying behaviour of unhappy flat sharers. Conflicts over one person using all the hot water, "my cup" and "your coffee" are the wind ups of flat sharing which grow out of proportion in territorial disputes but in this play, an individual is singled out for the silent treatment. My overall impression was one of shallowness and it is hard to believe that there isn't a book in sight in the living room of the flat of English graduates from the cream of our universities.

Spoilt little rich girl Viv, in between jobs, has been bought a London house by her parents and she is sharing with geeky, socially awkward Baz (Nick Blakeley) who works for a company making Frisbees, serious and Jewish Jane (Zora Bishop) who is training to be a solicitor and playboy Rusty (Jesse Fox) who is full of fashion statements and might want to be a singer. The play opens with Rusty in bed with Annie (Margaret Clunie) who is an aspiring artist and model and would like to live there.

There is much is Lucie's play which you will recognise, borrowing each other's clothes, the extreme cocktail making evening followed by drunken debate and the changes in sexual partners. Tone offends Viv and she lies about him in a seriously manipulative way and later turns the rest of the housemates against Tone's girlfriend, Jane. Annie is supercilious and a snob as she refers to the black rioters as Wogs and is nasty to everyone and produces unpleasant art celebrating the Nazi era. Lucie's play is a study in selfishness. Annie asks whether anyone saw Holocaust on the television the other night, the 1980s television series. Rusty replies that he found it a little one-sided.

James Hillier gets first class performances from his cast. There is a showcase role for Jesse Fox as flamboyantly dressed Rusty whose father is a Fleet Street tabloid editor but who doesn't seem to have inherited anything resembling a work ethic. Margaret Clunie's Annie is poisonous and Isabella Laughland's Viv, controlling.

As an example of a young generation living in Thatcherite Britain from theatre company defibrillator, Viv and her housemates do not fill us with national pride nor hope for the future. Their lack of idealism is quite shocking and makes for excellent and thoughtful drama.

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Hard Feelings
Written by Doug Lucie
Directed by James Hillier

With: Jesse Fox, Margaret Clunie, Callum Turner, Nick Blakeley, Zora Bishop, Isabella Laughland
Designed by Stepahnie Williams
Lighting: Will Evans
Sound: Tom Meehan
Running time: Two hours 15 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0844 847 1652
Booking to 6th July 2013
A production from The Finborough Theatre and defibrillator
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 14th June 2013 performance at The Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED (Tube: Earls Court/West Brompton)

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