Dangerous currents beneath the surface in Albee's intense drama - The Leamington Observer

Dangerous currents beneath the surface in Albee's intense drama

A Delicate Balance, Loft Theatre, Leamington


THE INTERWOVEN relationships and potentially volatile chemistry of a family are at play in this hefty, densely-constructed but ultimately rewarding staging of Edward Albee’s dissection of American domestic life.

Opulent, educated and fully-stocked at the bar, this should be a family at ease and in harmony, but any such veneer is, on closer inspection, fatally thin and riven with cracks. Discontent, bitterness and finger-pointing are never really that well concealed.

The return of a daughter fleeing her fourth failed marriage and the unexpected arrival of friends fleeing something which never becomes apparent, make for a full house and, once that bar’s been pressed into vigorous and unremitting service, that thin veneer all but disappears.

These are not people whose lives we can really identify with and the language is sufficiently overblown and, at times, ponderous to move them even further away from us. Nevertheless, the quandaries of family versus friends, bluff male head of the clan versus more astute supporting female, stereotype ideals versus blunt human reality – all resonate to a point.

There is a full collection of finely-drawn and beautifully-timed performances from the company of six.

Lorna Middleton as the steely, controlled matriarch is perfectly at home throughout, as relaxed and unhurried in her home as her husband, played by Craig Shelton, is uncomfortable and vulnerable. The delicate balance between them, one of several underpinning Albee’s drama, tilts from side to side and even in its quieter, tranquil moments is never absolutely still or resolved.

Credit must also go to Leonie Frazier as the booze-soaked sister whose edgy, too-honest presence threatens to upset any lasting balance this odd group may at any time achieve.

Sue Moore handles the dynamics of a long but frequently sedentary weekend with an abundance of style and a pleasing sense of pacing, all very confidently staged against Richard Moore’s atmospheric design.

In a piece where the difficult decisions which are made are of far less importance than the process by which they are reached, the feeling is constantly that something has to give. But even when the far-from-welcome guests unilaterally opt to make things easier by simply leaving, there’s no let-up in the family’s prevaricating and destructive soul-searching.

The morning’s tentative sunshine and uneasy peace is a fitting metaphor for the whole; is the fragile resolution really worth the journey? It’s the tension, not the release, in this intriguing which will stay with us.

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