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Napoli, Brooklyn by Meghan Kennedy at Park Theatre

Georgia May Foote as Vita, Hannah Bristow as Fran, Mona Goodwin as Tina in NAPOLI, BROOKLYN. Credit Marc Brenner.
Georgia May Foote as Vita, Hannah Bristow as Fran, Mona Goodwin as Tina in NAPOLI, BROOKLYN. Credit Marc Brenner.

This powerful play, set in Brooklyn in 1960, attempts to tell the story of a family of Italian immigrants trying to assimilate and adapt to the change of culture and environment. The promise of the ‘American Dream’ has proved elusive, especially to the father of the family, Nic, passionately portrayed by Robert Cavanah. He has ended up with a dead-end job as a lowly paid unskilled labourer laying Tarmac on New York’s streets. Physically, and mentally, he contrives to look totally exhausted; the only way he can find to control his family is by violence, which during the course of the play is often quite shocking.

His wife, Luda (Madeleine Worrall) who tries to be ever cheerful, is the one who valiantly holds the family together, refusing the many offers from her neighbour, Dubliner Albert (Stephen Hogan). Some of the most moving moments in this play are the scenes between the two of them as they inwardly fight their emotions.

Everyone in this play has their own way of coping with life: none is happy, especially the various daughters: Francesca (Hannah Bristow), Tina (Mona Goodwin), Vita (Georgia May Foote) and Connie, Albert’s daughter (Laurie Ogden. All are totally believable and quickly succeed in establishing their roles, quite difficult in a play where the structure consists of many short scenes juxtaposed with each other: as in a television ‘soap’ no sooner do we begin to concentrate on one situation than it switches to another. Director Lisa Blair clearly realises that the piece needs to be played speedily and with a great deal of energy: rarely does the pace let up. The many scene changes called for are either ignored or just suggested, which in fact works very well, but it does get quite exhausting to watch. The audience is rarely allowed to relax!

In fact, if the play has a fault, it is that the playwright, Meghan Kennedy, tries to do too much in one play. Some of the roles, for example, Celia ( acted with great warmth by Gloria Onitiri) we know very little about, and if we did, it would distract from what we want to know about the Italian family!

Simple, imaginative set and costume design is by Frankie Bradshaw, effective lighting, always aware of mood, is by Johanna Town and essential sound/music by Max Pappenheim – in fact he is responsible for the superbly effective climax to Act One – which I will not give away here: just go and see the play!!

If one of the hallmarks of a ‘good’ play is that you find yourself discussing it afterwards, then this is a ‘good’ play, as I found myself discussing it for the next hour, waiting on Finsbury Park Station, and finding that this is a piece of writing that has much to commend it. Highly recommended – but remember that Park Theatre only seats 200!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

The Muscolinos have raised three proud and passionate daughters. Each of them bonded by a fierce love for one another and harbouring a secret longing that could tear the family apart.

When an earth-shattering event rocks their Park Slope neighbourhood, life comes to a screeching halt and the sisters are forced to confront their conflicting visions for the future in this gripping, provocative and poignant portrait of love in all its danger and beauty.

Originally commissioned by The Roundabout Theatre Company and currently nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award 2019. The Original Theatre Company (Monogamy, Birdsong,The Habit of Art) are proud to present the UK premiere of Meghan Kennedy’s enthralling coming-of-age tale directed by Lisa Blair whose recent credits include a five star revival of Jerusalem.

Starring Georgia May Foote (Coronation Street, Grange Hill), Robert Cavanah (Shetland, Outlander and The Royal), Hannah Bristow (Jane Eyre, National Theatre), Mona Goodwin (Black Mirror), Stephen Hogan (The Tudors, Primeval), Laurie Ogden (To Kill a Mockingbird), Gloria Onitiri (Brighton Rock, Hadestown) and Madeleine Worrall (Peter Pan, Jane Eyre National Theatre).

Original Theatre Company in association with Park Theatre presents the European Premiere of
Napoli, Brooklyn
By Meghan Kennedy
Directed by Lisa Blair

Plays: 13th June – 13th July 2019
https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/

Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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