If The Legacy appears to be a rather ominous title, then be aware that it is offered considerable fulfilment by a judiciously measured, funny and thought-provoking narrative.
Two sisters, one of whom married with children, are reunited for the reading of their late father’s will. Sparks fly, as deep-rooted family secrets and long-held resentments emerge over the course of an hour in the waiting room of a solicitor’s offices.
We first meet Rebecca (Lucinda Westcar) and Adam Booth (Jim Mannering). They are a couple living a cosseted existence in the commuter-belt idyll of Harpenden. On the 5:2 diet and a kitchen stocked with ‘organic vegetables’, in the day, she stays at home to raise their two children. He works full time for a city firm near Liverpool Street.
Their relationship is founded on old-fashioned values. What emerges is a snapshot of an antiquated universe; Adam displays a viciously chauvinistic attitude, lacking any self-awareness of the outdated nature of his views. Liberal feminist Esther’s (Claire Watson Parr) return from New York is akin to a grenade rolled into the Booth’s world. Spiky, acerbic and barbed exchanges fly across the room.
Accusations and denials form a caustic dance, as her presence forces history to be dug up with the type of committed industry usually reserved for a conscientious groundskeeper. The direction is satisfyingly perfunctory for the purpose of an hour’s theatre. This is a chamber play requiring the single setting and it fulfils its brief. The performances, sadly, are a little uneven. Whilst Jim Mannering’s regale is solid in its depiction of a smarmy, self-satisfied but ultimately insecure, city boy, the female cast members are not quite on that par. Moments of shock are not entirely convincing and the import is diluted (albeit nominally) as a result.
This is Angela Clarke’s debut play. Having transferred from Tristan Bates Theatre to The Hope Theatre, it can be seen as to why it gaining traction. Comedy gives way to stunning pathos. The powerful denouement could easily distract from the pearls of insight offered by an intelligent script and the material garners favourable comparison with the work of Mike Leigh, Michael Wall, or, as a contemporary, Torben Betts.
It is all too infrequent in new writing that any hypothetical male crisis is referenced. For instance, with the rise of gender equality in the workplace what is the role for the modern man? In and amongst a discussion on feminism and Esther’s political escapades, Adam’s veneer cracks and he pours out an engrossing paean to male employment anxiety and fears of the scrapheap at 34. This is a fascinating perspective shift, garnering not sympathy or approval, but a small measure of comprehension of his motive.
The old saying, “two’s company, three’s a crowd” is never better evidenced than here. At times funny, then stirring, and complete with a rumination on the incongruous relationship between art and commerce, liberalism and conservatism, The Legacy is a memorable play that signposts a bright new talent.
Review by Greg Wetherall
writer: ANGELA CLARKE / director: MICHAEL BEIGEL
8th to 13th June 2015
7.45pm (Sat matinee at 2.30pm
“I read her newspaper bits. In one of them she used the v-word. Vagina. Actually wrote it. Thank god Daddy only read The Telegraph.”
Rebecca is surprised and excited when her estranged sister Esther shows up for the reading of their late father’s will. But Esther’s very presence soon disrupts Rebecca’s dream suburban life; prompting questions neither sister wants to face. Cracks appear. Tempers fray. And the truth about Esther’s disappearance a decade ago finally surfaces.
The Legacy is a cynically funny drama by Angela Clarke, which explores notions of gender, sex, and love. Angela is a published author and journalist. The Legacy is her debut play.
Dramaturg and director Michael Beigel is the founder of Like The Clappers theatre collective. Previous directing credits include Love and Understanding (Cockpit Theatre) and The Glorious History and Tragical Demise of Doctor John Faustus (Space45).
Rebecca: Lucinda Westcar
Adam: Jim Mannering
Esther: Claira Watson Parr