The Heart of Things at Jermyn Street
The intimacy of Jermyn Street Theatre is perfectly suited to the claustrophobic implosion of the family unit that tensely unfolds throughout The Heart of Things. The plausible, everyday mundanity of the set reflects the characters, trapped as they are in their own pasts, having no real idea how to move forward. It’s a promising piece that does deliver that promise in many ways, but that unfortunately falls short of the audience’s hopes and expectations at the final hurdle.
The Heart of Things has been criticised for having endless skeletons tumbling out of the closet to the point of ridiculousness, and the audience are a little non-plussed by the constant and ever-more-bizarre revelations that unfurl rather rapidly in the second half. These secrets and family tensions are quite ham-fistedly hinted at in the first half, leaving a little to be desired as far as dramatic irony is concerned.
The cast themselves, however, are a joy to behold. Nick Waring rises to the emotional challenges of Peter’s character excellently. As a middle-aged man frustrated with his lot in life, he is alarmingly convincing, oozing pain, regret and anger wonderfully. Ralph Watson is also wonderful as Brian Calder, the cantankerous elderly man who’s begun to realise that his health is failing him and it may be too late to express his true feelings to his nearest and dearest. When Peter asks Ros at the end of the play “do you think it’s too late?” he’s not just referring to their father’s declining health, but making a statement about the lost time that each character is desperately trying to regain. Each character that is, except Will.
Will is the beacon of hope for the family: he represents youth and the chance to get things right the next time around, although there is an overwhelming feeling that he is doomed to make his own mistakes and will eventually pass on the same message to his own grandchildren.
There are so many interesting themes in The Heart of Things, but none of them are fully explored, and this failure is somewhat disappointing. Had Giles Cole chosen one or two issues, or focused on drawing parallels between the family dissolution and the political setting of the play (which seems to be a rather bizarre side note), The Heart of Things might have been an altogether more fulfilling and rewarding experience.
Photo: Elliott Franks
The Heart of Things is on at Jermyn Theatre until 4th April 2015, for further information or to book visit here.