Having recently seen Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love, I must say this playwright is rapidly becoming a firm favourite of mine. At first knowing that this play was a marathon, two-hour forty-five minutes long, with two short intervals, I was a little daunted. However never have I known such a production absolutely fly past, as hard-hitting and thought-provoking as it is, there is an argument for discussing what the audience concluded from it.
Set in rural America as it was reeling from a recession, the downturn of the agricultural industry and with a rising popularity in highly conservative candidates, the similarity of the political atmosphere in 1979 and 2016 is compelling, especially with the recent American Presidential Election. Casting a brutal light on disenfranchised Americans, Buried Child is a dark, macabre and painfully funny family drama that is as relevant now as it was during it’s first run almost forty years ago.
Dodge (Ed Harris) and Halie (Amy Madigan) are barely hanging on to their farmland and their sanity while looking after their two wayward grown sons. (Barnaby Kay, Gary Shelford). When their grandson Vince (Jeremy Irvine) arrives with his girlfriend (Charlotte Hope), no one seems to recognize him, and confusion abounds. As Vince tries to make sense of the chaos, the rest of the family dances around a deep, dark secret.
As we take to our seats, Dodge (Harris) is sat on the sofa and we hear his wife’s (Madigan) voice from upstairs. This is a one-roomed play Harris despite remaining seated throughout commands an imposing figure, proving to be every ounce the Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominated actor he is. A masterclass in acting is delivered by the whole cast but most notably Harris who made you feel you were in the presence of greatness.
The play progresses and apparent sinisterness of the family becomes ever-present. None more so than a disturbing scene between girlfriend Shelly (Charlotte Hope) and son Bradley (Gary Shelford) when he subjects her to an intensely abominable gesture. You truly felt disdain for Shelford and Hope’s fear.
It is the thought and carefully placed supposition of what has gone before which makes the piece even more interesting. With dark black humour and astonishingly intense acting, this is a riveting play. Tilden played by Barnaby Kay is obviously hiding his own past and gives the feeling that he might find being in social company a challenge.
Just when you think, you could actually do with the play lasting longer it comes to an abrupt and shocking end. Scott Elliott superbly directs this stellar cast. Witness the destruction of the ideal all American family, the reversal of dream America, the nightmare of an acutely dysfunctional family displaying deceit, bitterness and poison.
It’s a very different production which keeps your mind racing and you are in awe of the acting before you. Definitely not a happy ending but definitely a play to see.