Playing with Grown-Ups at Theatre 503
With echoes of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the classic drawing room genre, Hannah Patterson’s Playing with Grown-ups explores the tense and emotional consequences of a visit from an old friend and his new, rather unexpected girlfriend.
Joanna and Robert are a married couple in their late 30s with a messy house and a nine week-old baby. When Robert returns from work announcing that their old friend (and Joanna’s ex) is coming to visit, and that he’s bringing his new girlfriend, Joanna is less than happy. As Joanna struggles with the transition from work to motherhood, it is clear from the play’s opening that the couple’s lives are unraveling, whether Robert wishes to see it or not.
What initially appears to be yet another play about specifically middle-class problems quickly transcends the trappings of its genre to become an often heartrending portrayal of what happens when we get everything we think we want. Exploring whether women can really “have it all”, the play asks whether we are living the lives we truly desire, or the lives that are expected of us by society and our loved ones.
It is Jake’s new girlfriend, 16 year-old A-level student Stella (played by an endearing Daisy Hughes) who provides the catalyst for Joanna to question her life choices. Stella’s monologues frame the play, dividing it into a classical beginning, middle and end structure. Seemingly wiser than her elders who are crumbling around her, Stella’s belief that grown-ups overcomplicate their lives is put to the test by her own actions towards the play’s end as her own issues rear their complicated head.
Directed by Hannah Eidinow in a naturalistic style, this is an assured and confident production that is not afraid to explore feelings and issues, such as a mother not loving her child, that are considered taboo. All four actors give strong performances; in particular the scene in which they argue about Stella as if she is not there is excruciatingly effective. It is ultimately the women, though, who gain the most from the evening’s proceedings: Joanna learns that she has no choice but to follow her feelings, and Stella that navigating adult life is often just as complicated as people make it seem, and that sometimes it is impossible to know you’ve made the wrong decision until after you’ve made it.
Playing with Grown-Ups is at Theatre 503 until 8th June 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.