The bold spirit of the National Theatre filtered into this impressive production – marking a tremendously successful start to the Nottingham New Theatre’s Uncut Season. First time directors/producers Shane Chard and Amy McWalters bring this quirky, heart-felt play of pitch-perfect comedy and truly moving moments to life, in what is the student premiere of this production! By the time you leave it is as though you know each and every character like an old friend.
The lights dawn over a simple set, white wash walls and a cushioned bench, all that were needed to transport us out of the Nottingham chill and into the warmth of summer. The plot unfolds to reveal the story of a family prickling with problems both past and present and brought together in their old family home to care for their aged, hippy of a mother, Judy (Lydia Hawthorn).
The script has a contemporary banter which springs the plot along and the actor’s pace, for the most part, kept up – however, at moments the energy levels dipped slightly which only somewhat dented our belief in the Haussmans’ world. Another slight distraction was the inconsistency in costume changes, which was sometimes adhered to and sometimes not, causing confusion over how much time has passed. But these were minor distractions to the production’s overall success.
The casting was faultless: Chris Ansell (Nick) fitted his part like a friendly pair of skinny jeans, really pushing himself during emotional moments. Tim Meredith (Peter) dictates the majority of the comedy – with the unforgettable opening line of ‘I’ve got an erection’ – but shows us a serious and tragically pathetic side of the boisterous doctor. Michael Nissenbaum (Daniel) gave another strong performance – his sideways glances and budging eyes were all that was needed to communicate his bashful teenage crush, more so than any long awkward speech could have done.
Lydia Hawthorn stepped into the shoes of Julie Walters (who played Judy in the NT’s production) and, although she was comfortable in the role, the shoe size was a bit too big for her. Her delivery was fine – at points drawing the audience into fits of laughter – but her characterisation as an elderly woman (a challenging aim for a twenty-year old) was not always fully realistic.
The mother-daughter relationship between Libby (Filipa Braganca) and Summer (Jessica Lester) was realistically created – their physical resemblance aided the matter considerably. Jessica Lester, as the spiky, opinionated Summer, truly embodied the role with vigour and obvious enjoyment.
Yet the star of the show was the fantastical Filipa Braganca (Libby) – moving with such natural stage presence, her performance was a beautiful balance of dry humour and a portrayal of utter hopelessness, which brought tears to our eyes as slow tears ran down her own face. A stunning talent which – shockingly, outrageously! – has not impressed a Nottingham New Theatre audience before.
A great play, a great cast, a great night out (or in) with the Haussmans! The directors did a superb job with a mammoth of a play.
The Last of the Haussmans runs at Performance Arts Studio (Trent Building) until Tuesday 12th March. For tickets email [email protected]