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Review of The National Theatre’s Neaptide – Lyttelton Theatre

Neaptide 1986 Mary Macleod as Joyce, Lucy Speed as Poppy, Jessica Turner as Claire - Credit Ivan Kyncl
Neaptide 1986 Mary Macleod as Joyce, Lucy Speed as Poppy, Jessica Turner as Claire – Credit Ivan Kyncl

The National Theatre has launched a brief series of rehearsed readings of plays over the Pride Season to support LGBT+ writing. Its season of “Queer Theatre” starts off strong with a Sarah Daniels’ comedic play about the negative stereotypes and treatment of lesbians in the mid-eighties which still hits harder than one would think today.

Neaptide is about a woman called Claire (Jessica Raine) and her struggle for custody of her daughter after a divorce. Claire is a lesbian but keeps her private life details quiet in the hope that she can still have a chance of keeping her daughter with her. We also peer into the lives of two other generations of gay women at the time and their experiences and views help Claire on her journey.

The play exposes the everyday prejudices and discriminating views of not only lesbians but women in general. But our protagonist is forward thinking and always on the side of right. So much so that the play could borderline on preaching – but given when the original was conceived, it needed to be. And in some ways, it still echoes true today.

Rehearsed readings can be considered quite stiff and the lack of direction and staging could possibly dilute the writer’s intention. However Daniels’ words, her sharp wit and sitcom style of comedy is what makes this play – and with the vocal talents of the incredible actors on stage, almost nothing was lost.

The writing and plot were simple and well-designed for the sharp comebacks and typical British wit to come together and the actors are clearly enjoying Daniels’ storytelling. Taking in every syllable and enjoying her character was one Adjoa Andoh, who played the school’s headmistress. She was engaging and gave a great, well-rounded performance. Another worthy mention is Maureen Beattie playing Claire’s overbearing mother. Her sweet but punchy approach won the audience over immediately.

Overall, this play is a strong start to the National’s too-short season. Not only is it LGBT-based but it deals with how women are treated – and the strong bond and community they create together. It’s reassuring and hopeful. There is a social push still going on and plays like this remind us how far we’ve come and how much further we continue to go. Push on.

4 stars

Review by Elliot Jordan

QUEER THEATRE: LGBT+ STORIES & SOCIAL CHANGE
In partnership with Pride in London
The National Theatre invites you to a rehearsed reading of
Neaptide
By Sarah Daniels
Directed By Sarah Frankcom
Thursday 6 July, 7.30pm, Lyttelton Theatre
Directed by Sarah Frankcom, Neaptide was the National Theatre’s first full-length play by a female playwright. It presents a ferocious but funny account of the public and private battles of a lesbian mother in the 1980s, alongside the ancient myth of Demeter & Persephone. Having recently come out to her family, Claire now faces a bitter custody battle and uncertainty over her teaching career.

The cast includes: Ronke Adekoluejo (Val), Adjoa Andoh (Beatrice), Simon Armstrong (Sid & Cyril), Thomas Arnold (Colin & Roger), Maureen Beattie (Joyce), Morfydd Clark (Poppy & Terri), Karla Crome (Diane), Helena Lymbery (Anette & Marion), Sarah Niles (Linda) and Jessica Raine (Claire).

The reading was followed by a free discussion with Sarah Daniels and Sarah Frankcom about the play.

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