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The Lodger at the Coronet Theatre | Review

Two sisters reunite after the death of their mother, and secrets pour forth. Robert Holman’s new play gently exhibits talented classical acting in a very wordy play that feels close to home yet sublimely odd, and a little too comfortable.

Esther and Dolly’s mother has died.

Matthew Tennyson (Jude) and Iniki Mariano (Anila) in The Lodger by Robert Holman photo © Tristram Kenton
Matthew Tennyson (Jude) and Iniki Mariano (Anila) in The Lodger by Robert Holman photo © Tristram Kenton

Are you relieved?‘ asks Jude, the charming foster child of sorts. He’s recently turned from drug selling to playwriting.

Yes’, confesses Esther, a sort of foster mother and university academic. Perhaps an odd answer in the raw first day of grief, but the characters in this play are both resoundingly regular and abnormal. I think that is where this play is most intriguing; the characters have strange unfulfilled lives that they manage to find joy in. I believe there is a universality in that; maybe it’s just me, though.

Costume and set decisively establish the characters in who they are and give the audience an immediate impression of what has come before, the immediate events and what is yet to come.

The plot is thin on the ground; it is probably more accurate to say that people receive information. Heartbreak, decade-old betrayal and imaginary lovers all come out in the wash. But this structure works well, and this play is at its best when the actors are given a solid script to work with. Penny Downie (Esther) and Sylvestra Le Touzel have a truly believable relationship as sisters, while Iniki Mariano (Anila) and Matthew Tennyson make the most of some shaky romantic writing.

The play is full of symbolism, metaphor and subtext, and invites the audience to read into what is said and analyse the slightest gestures. Geraldine Alexander’s compelling dramaturgy crafted an intriguing maze of family history, and she works the actors excellently.

The play is good; it has the feel of a BBC six-part drama that is solid, but won’t stick in your mind. And while all elements of this show work well, there is a lack of weight to the significance of events. Without spoiling it, several life-changing events happen, and the importance of this is never felt.

This show certainly satisfies a guilty pleasure of mine. I love shows that have good acting, design and direction but are eventually meaningless. The Lodger will not change your outlook on life, reshape your family or encourage you to move to Dungeness, but not every show has to.

3 Star Review

Review by Tom Carter

I can’t undo what’s been said. My world changed this morning. I hope for the better, but we’ll see in the future.
The World Premiere of a cathartic and acerbic new play by influential playwright Robert Holman, whose play A Breakfast of Eels was produced at The Coronet Theatre in 2015.

Sisters Dolly and Esther grow up in ultra-conservative Harrogate in the ‘60s. 50 years later, following the death of their mother, Dolly comes to stay with Esther – now a successful novelist and living in Little Venice with her younger, inscrutable lodger, Jude. To make a new future they will have to be honest, heal old wounds, and the two sisters learn to laugh together again. Laced with humour, The Lodger is a story about identity, maturity and the possibility of reconciliation.

The Coronet Theatre presents the world premiere of
by Robert Holman
Director: Geraldine Alexander
Set and Costume Designer: Richard Kent
Lighting Designer: David Plater
Composer and Sound Designer: Simon Slater

With Penny Downie, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Matthew Tennyson and Iniki Mariano.

At The Coronet Theatre
10 September – 9 October 2021


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