Hard Feelings at the Finborough Theatre
Revived 31 years after it was first staged, and with the recent death of Thatcher still looming large, Doug Lucie’s 1981 play Hard Feelings charts the all-too-familiar lives of a group of self-absorbed Oxford graduates living at the heart of the Brixton riots, and wilfully ignoring them.
Beginning with the downing of a pint of milk by the play’s only working-class character Tone (a nod to Thatcher the milk snatcher, perhaps?), we are introduced to a cast of self-centred, culturally ignorant snobs, from Rusty the self-styled “musician” more interested in the clothes than the music, to Viv, the owner of the newly gentrified house who is determined to sacrifice her feelings to the gods of mass consumption.
In the midst of this Scotch-fuelled consumer fest are Jane and her boyfriend Tone. Providing the play’s moral centre, the couple bring tension into the fold by daring to question the way the others live. Tone in particular is keen to show them up for what they are. A self-styled working-class hero and journalist, he is keenly involved in covering the riots, and confronts the group for their lack of empathy.
It is hard to sympathise with most of the characters in Hard Feelings. Even Jane, the most victimised member of the house, still chooses to remain until the bitter end, despite her friends’ frankly amoral behaviour. Viv though, (expertly portrayed by Isabella Laughland) is perhaps most deserving of our sympathy. Clearly more intelligent than either Rusty or Annie, and to some extent trapped by her parents’ money, she obviously feels much more (particularly with regard to Jane) than she is prepared to admit. Her failure to work to become a better person, coupled with Baz’s moral failure and drift into the yuppie lifestyle, is a damning indictment of the government, state, and education system that raised such self-serving individuals.
Although the set contains a few historical inaccuracies and the costumes seem like a 21st century re-hash of how people in the 80s actually dressed, the staging is bright and energetic and the direction makes good use of the cramped space, especially for Rusty’s hilarious musical number. At over two hours, the script is slightly too long, and shows its age with a number of lengthy monologues. Lucie’s play, however, does still have some shining moments and altogether provides an enjoyable evening.
Hard Feelings is at the Finborough Theatre until 6th July 2013. For more information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.