Sandy Pritchard-Gordon

Sandy Pritchard-Gordon
Theatre Blog

Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Inheritance at The Young Vic

On the face of it, The Inheritance could be called the Angels of America for our time.  It’s written in two parts, Aids is part of the story and it centres around gay men.  But whilst, Angels in America is a flamboyant, and, at times overly camp portrayal of the Aids crisis in the US in the mid 80’s, The Inheritance is much more controlled.  Funny, fast paced and sparsely staged, it very cleverly discusses the ties that bind the gay community to its past.  Cleverly, because Matthew Lopez has weaved E.M. Forster’s novel, Howard’s End into his plot.  Lopez has always been entranced by Forster since being taken, aged 16 to see the movie Howards End.  Upon devouring the rest of the author’s novels, especially Maurice, he realised he shared a connection - Forster was also a gay man.  Initially meaning to write a straight forward adaptation of Forster’s book, Lopez soon realised that he was creating something new; a reflection of his own life and experiences. 

Nevertheless, the Howards End influence in The Inheritance is not difficult to determine, as a house is central to the plot and Forster himself (beautifully played by Paul Hilton) is part of the action.  Appearing as himself, he is the catalyst for the young men to open up and tell their stories, which they do with witty repartee.   Although all the characters are interesting and well rounded, the two main young men are Eric and his live-in boyfriend Toby.  They couldn’t be more different.  The terrific Kyle Soller’s Eric is a mild, sensitive lawyer, whereas the scene stealing Andrew Burnap as Toby, is an insensitive, self-obsessed and self-destructive playwright.  On finding fame with his autobiographical play, he dumps Eric and decamps with his rich leading man Adam (Samuel H Levine). And here we have yet another immaculate performance, not only when Levine is playing Adam but also in his role as rent boy Leo. 

Apart from Forster, there are two other older male characters.  One is Walter, once again played by Paul Hilton and the other, billionaire Henry Wilcox, an excellent John Benjamin Hickey.  Wilcox is essential to the plot, being the owner of the house in the country and Eric’s eventual ill-suited husband.

As is to be expected, Stephen Daldry directs with aplomb.  Our attention to the banter, debates and spell binding monologues between and by the men never wavers, helped in part by the continuous fast paced drive of the piece. The three-hour running time is never noticeable, as we’re treated to humour, real emotion and anticipation as to what will eventually happen to the main characters.  It is testimony to the skill of all taking part that the ending to both parts results in the majority of the audience shedding a tear or two.  Plus the appearance of Vanessa Redgrave (the single female character) towards the end of Part Two gives added poignancy.

I absolutely loved the play and, although the two parts stand alone, it is so much more rewarding to take the time to view both.  It will surely transfer to the West End.  And quite rightly so.

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