The “stuff” that family dreams are made on

Remarkable Invisible: Theatre by the Lake

Family dynamics change entirely when families disperse and re-unite. The process of moving away and creating space in which to see more objectively the unit in which we’ve been brought up invariably becomes a critical one. Not necessarily negative criticism, but often exposing previously hidden areas of conflict.

So there will be almost universal appreciation of the scenario which forms the basis of this intense and perceptive new drama by Brooklyn-based playwright, screenwriter and producer Laura Eason. As a world premiere it’s a terrific coup for Keswick; as a dramatic narrative it reaches all of us.

It’s a simple basic plot. Ageing parents (Ian Barritt and Eliza Hunt) are downsizing and moving from the family home, and their son and daughter (Matt Addis and Alice Selwyn) head in (from New York and San Francisco) to help them pack. Which means dealing with the “stuff” of their lives, the diaries of a grandfather, the Blossom Dearie and Pete Seeger LPs, the china dinner service.

But also the “stuff” of their father’s long and utterly undistinguished career as a paranormal researcher for which his wife has been utterly loyal and uncritical…and his son has been everlastingly embarrassed. He removed himself (an in doing so, abandoned the love of his life.. but that’s another sub-plot) and created a successful career as an architect, dealing with concrete realities.

The daughter, desperate to reach beyond the mask of her mother’s cheery self-sacrificing (“I just want you to be happy..”) is a Unitarian minister married to a woman with whom she is now having a baby. So maybe not all families are so “interesting”, but the underlying dynamics are uncomfortably recognisable.

There are terrific performances all round, and some wonderful generational cameos, as the younger pair complain of the temperature in the house (“the coldest winter I ever spent was summer at mom and dad’s”). There’s a very genuine homage to folk singer Seeger (“a man who spoke the truth”) and also a genuine sense of affection between the parents. (Discuss: does the degree of affection between a couple have any correlation  with their need to keep the treasures/detritus  of their lives?)

Director Zoe Waterman leads a female-dominant backstage team (designer is Bronia Housman, lighting designer Johanna Town) as once again the Theatre by the Lake demonstrates its stature. This has been a remarkable season so far; time now to do some re-visiting.

Remarkable Invisible: Studio, Theatre by the Lake till November 4. Booking and details: here


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