House of America at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
What happens when a parent won’t let her children leave the nest? Ed Thomas’s compelling first play House of America, directed by James O’Donnell, is on at Jack Studio Theatre and is a poignant, intimate tragedy set in a bleak Welsh mining town. With beautiful characterisation, the piece is a gracefully composed exposé of the painful repercussions resulting from dysfunctional family dynamics. Portraying a mother and her three offspring with affection and humour, the narrative gradually and artfully reveals truths amid layers of deception and anguish.
A story about parental wrongs and the myths and dreams that replace living where there is a fear of life, the play is written with intelligence and compassion. A mother, Mam (Lowri Lewis) appears to be sinking into insanity while her three grown children – living at home and unemployed – spend their days playing drunken fantasy games involving poets Jack Kerouac, his girlfriend Joyce Johnson and Alan Ginsberg. Believing their absent father emigrated to America, they mentally escape their dreary surroundings through romantic reverie about the US until it overtakes them. Replacing the travel and exploration they yearn for but deny themselves because of their matriarch, their myths become their whole existence, leading to chaos and tragedy when they collide with reality.
House of America is about “hiding your head in the sand”, as spoken by a philosophical construction worker about the demise of his life due to his fear of the world. It is about watchers versus doers, imagining rather than being heroes, and the sickness caused by a parent who will go to any lengths to maintain possession of her progeny and to keep her family home.
The cast is brilliant in this piece: the acting is notably excellent. Working with a remarkably well-written script, their performances are subtle and very moving. Siblings Sid, Boyo and Gwenny are superbly portrayed by Pete Grimwood, Robert Durbin and Evelyn Campbell – the latter’s final scene is particularly stirring and eloquent – and the labourer, David Pamstrom, achieves an admirable interpretation of an ingeniously written monologue.
O’Donnell’s impeccable direction has constructed a striking impression of small town Welsh sensibilities immersed in fantasies of glamour in Americana. Lighting is highly effective, accentuating dramatic moments, such as vivid spotlighting of each character during a “trial”.
A gem re-inspired and timelessly relevant, House of America is a stunning work that should be seen.
House of America is at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre from 27th June until 15th July 2017. For further information or to book visit here.