One for Sorrow at the Royal Court Theatre
In Cordelia Lynn’s latest play, Western liberal response to social upheaval comes under scrutiny. Utilising the drawing room drama format and a substantial, thought-provoking script, the writer’s collection of characters represent different recognisable facets of social conscience, family dynamics and identity politics.
One night in London, bombs fall in the streets and the news reports a steadily climbing hostage count. A family stays safely inside its comfortable, suburban home. When Immy, the philanthropic elder daughter, puts out a hashtag to open the family’s door to one of the victims, their relationship is severely tested. Then John arrives and, with spare few words, manages to coax out every prejudice, hypocrisy and foible they’d been hiding beneath their magnanimous veneer.
Lynn’s script is pensive and engrossing. “I think it’s particularly amazing what we can get used to,” she has John say. “Eating all the time, television all the time.” The play challenges our ideas of what’s normal, what’s right and what is our duty. It’s a little jarring, though, when John speaks in metaphors, his stoic wisdom not always the most believable.
Pearl Chanda is spot-on as the awkward and forthright Immy. A perfectly executed monologue in the second act allows all the character’s contradictions to grapple, her fury versus her impotence versus her pacifism. Irfan Shamji is a little wooden as John but has some shining moments, such as a bout of maniacal laughter that chills as well as amuses.
One for Sorrow puts one in mind of Oliver Cotton’s 2017 Dessert, in which a stranger comes in the night to shatter the convictions of a well-to-do group of friends. However, while Cotton’s work flows more deftly and engrosses more consistently, this production is a little stilted in places. Lynn’s is the more ambitious drama, though, with a momentary foray into surrealism and some whispered interior monologues that are pure poetry.
Laura Hopkins’ set must be mentioned, but without spoilers. Suffice to say it innovatively and ever so gradually morphs from start to finish and underpins the unravelling of the piece quite wonderfully.
Lynn made her debut at the Royal Court with Lela & Co, making this her second play here. With her penchant for prescient exposé and the weightiness of what she leaves unsaid, she is surely a playwright destined for great things.
Photo: Johan Persson
One for Sorrow is at the Royal Court Theatre from 20th June until 11th August 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.