True West at the Tricycle
Sam Shepard’s True West (1980) has been performed in New York, San Francisco and the UK by the cream of the theatre crop. Under the direction of Phillip Breen it has finally found its bearings on stage at the Tricycle Theatre.
After almost 25 years in existence and starring roles given to the likes of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly and Dennis Quaid, the revival of this American tale tells of unresolved family rifts invading the existence of two contrary brothers.
Blinds open to reveal the startling brightness of the blue, green and beige shades of Max Jones’ set: a painfully organised 80s suburban home complete with a flowered bread bin and linoleum.
This is a house of order and logic, the perfect meeting place for disarray borne through the ill-fated role-reversal of siblings Austin, a Hollywood screenwriter, and Lee, a desert-dwelling dog fighter.
Austin’s comfort comes from his imagination and his writing. In the dining room decorated like a jungle clearing, he guards his mother’s plants and waters them like an obsessive participant of the Chelsea Flower Show. Lee’s performance begins with him standing in the kitchen on the lookout and on edge, much like the dogs he owned in the Mojave Desert.
There is a nervous tension highlighted by prolonged silences. The anxieties of Alex Ferns’ prim and proper character leaves us supportive of the introduction of Valium. In contrast, the filth of Lee’s attire almost warrants an Ebola-style Hazmat suit for the audience. Eugene O’Hare’s interpretation of Lee is as intense and unfaltering as the desert in which he has made his home.
The positive and negatives of American culture is a theme that runs throughout. Austin’s “period piece” gets scrapped for Lee’s new-age western film. This decision is based on a bet; no doubt a two-fingered gesture towards the fickle nature of Hollywood.
The catalyst for the stability-turned-savagery? A script. We learn, “there is a difference between a movie and a film” apparently, “the French make films and the Americans should be left to make movies”. Judging by Shepard’s production, they also make captivating plays.
True West is on at the Tricycle Theatre from 4th September until 4th October 2014, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for True West here: