Doonreagan at the Jermyn Street Theatre
Ann Henning Jocelyn’s new play had its world premier at Jermyn Street Theatre this week. The production explores the life that poet Ted Hughes led at Doonreagan House in Connemara, Ireland, and his relationship with Assia Wevill while there.
The concept is an interesting one. It is an exploration of how the natural environment that surrounded Hughes and Wevill at Doonreagan allowed them to see each other, and themselves, for who they really were; it explores how, as a couple, they could not get past the enigma of Hughes’s ex- wife, Sylvia Plath, and how this ultimately destroyed their relationship. Despite this fascinating subject however, the performance itself fell short.
Actors Flora Montgomery and Daniel Simpson were stiff and awkward as the play opened. Their energy was lacking, despite the intimacy of the theatre – there were very few moments of chemistry or passion between them. Both also seemed to stumble over the poetic nature of Jocelyn’s writing, sounding as though they were giving speeches at times rather than natural dialogue. As the play went on both did seem to gain confidence, and a few moments of real vulnerability stood out.
Alex Dmitriev’s direction has left this show without any sort of urgency or momentum. The slow transitions had the audience looking around the theatre, instead of focusing on the stage. Witticisms in the dialogue should have had the audience laughing far more than they did: the jokes were still there, but the slow timing had them falling short.
The multimedia design added a nice authenticity to the story that the performance was unfortunately lacking, with the set consisting of authentic furniture from Doonreagan House that would have been used by Hughes and Wevill in the 1960s.
What is disappointing about this show is its potential to be great. An interesting script, strong characters and intimate setting could all have made for a fantastic performance. However, the general lack of energy and passion meant that the audience left subdued and disheartened. Hopefully the cast and crew can lift their performance and eventually live up to this interesting play’s potential.
Photos: Ludovic des Cognets
Doonreagan is at Jermyn Street Theatre until 21st September 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.