Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Sons of York, Finborough Theatre

Review: Sons of York, Finborough Theatre

Published in The Stage, 08.10.2008

In picturing England’s winter of discontent under James Callaghan, writer James Graham turns Doomsayer-in-Chief. With another unelected Labour prime minister facing an economic crisis, Sons of York is as pertinent as it is period. We are, as the placard says, all in this together.

As Hull freezes over, Jim (Barry Aird) moves his wife and son in with his father (William Maxwell). Charting the demise of Jim’s mother (Colette Kelly) alongside the looming general strike, Sons of York proves an engaging study of the family unit as micro-parliament within a tumultuous political landscape.

Graham has crafted a marvellous, if old-fashioned, script; drip-feeding us the plot and twisting the thumbscrews of tension with remarkable precision and rhythm. He demonstrates a good ear for a line and a gifted eye for an image – a grandfather air-freshening over his elderly wife’s incontinence, a teenage boy wrestling with towel and dignity to bath in the drawing room.

Its chief success is in the veracity of the family itself, as silences – comfortable and uncomfortable – collide with bickering, mockery and arguments. Under Wasserberg’s subtly skilful direction a talented cast excel: Maxwell, Aird and a superb Steven Webb offering adroit contrast between three generations.

With fewer sentimental flashbacks, a strict edit and an injection of pace, this illuminating play could become luminescent.

Photograph: Marilyn Kingwill

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