Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Delicate Balance review (Almeida Theatre) - poignancy delivered with conviction by strong cast


"Are you home forever, back from the world? To the sadness and reassurance of your parents?"

A Delicate Balance
till 2nd July
Almeida Theatre
Almeida Street, London N1 1TA
Nearest Tube station: Angel
Life seems to be smiling at Agnes (Penelope Wilton) and Tobias (Tim Pigott-Smith). After all, their 36 year old daughter Julia (Lucy Cohu) was finally happily married, albeit for the fourth time. Hardly a care in the world, they are looking forward to spending the rest of their lives in the comfort of their suburban home, waited upon by the servants and dropping by the local club every now so often. That is so even with Agnes' alcoholic sister Claire (Imelda Staunton) who is putting up with them and relying on Tobias' generosity. The constant bickering between  the Agnes and Claire with Tobias stuck in between probably provide some semblance of life in the family.

Things start to unravel when Agnes receives a call from a sobbing Julia who is clearly unhappy about her fourth husband. For obvious reasons, Agnes and Tobias aren't surprised and promptly offer Julia the sanctuary of their home, in which they maintain a bedroom for her. However, just before Julia arrives,  Harry (Ian McElhinney) and Edna (Diana Hardcastle) who are Agnes and Tobias' best friends at the club turn up looking terrified and disheveled. Julia then returns home only to find that her bedroom has been taken up by Harry and Edna who seem to be intending to stay put for quite some time.

Nearby restaurants
Le Mercury
30 places to eat in the area
A Delicate Balance set in 1960s New York, which won Edward Albee his Pulitzer in 1966, is about the facade that we unconsciously adopt when life becomes monotonous and predictable. As time goes on, those facades become so real that we believe that it has always been this way and can't or simply refuse to acknowledge that it hasn't always been so. A Delicate Balance explores the assumptions that we hold close, without which life as we know it would be unbearable.

A strong cast that is able to deliver with conviction keeps up the tempo for the almost three hour along play set entirely in a living room adorned with heavy furniture. Unsurprisingly, the drinks trolley and the bar tabletop feature prominently in the play that supposedly spans over a weekend.

All in all, A Delicate Balance is easily one of the better plays performing at Almeida Theatre. Officially, tickets have all sold out but you can always leave your details at the box office or even give them a call on the same day for ticket returns. You might just get lucky, who knows?

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