The Inheritance at the Noel Coward Theatre
Never has a play been so well-received that the slamming of chairs could be heard in quick succession as a full house anxiously rose to standing ovation in appreciation of a masterly work of tragedy, laughter and learning.
Taking conscious inspiration from Forster’s novel – Howard’s End – with reference to the book, and with a mentor called Morgan (Paul Hilton) to whom the characters look for guidance, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance in a Stephen Daldry production feels very much like a Netflix binge. Though it begins deceptively, resembling a student room in which young minds gather to unite in and inspire creativity. Such a setting allows the audience to become one with the stage as slowly they cease to exist while the characters speak individually to eyes affixed to the stage.
Some scepticism can be felt at the early stages of the piece when the characters’ gazes seems to be directed merely on the material values of the urban existence of worth based on consumption. The play, however, moves to explore other realism, moving audience members horizontally in dialogue and vertically in narrative, hence through time and space, in Bob Crawley’s humble set design with a table that alternately becomes the stage’s centre. It is the horizontal nature of the movement that has become subject to some criticism since the cast is almost exclusively well-off white male, though both notions of privilege and whiteness are bought into question within the play. The individual narratives are interwoven with the discourse of AIDS, struggles in love, individual conflicts of identity, and the issue of homeless as a result of this conflict.
This show is about the narrative thus it is the words and not a vast set that resonates so powerfully. Samuel H Levine as Adam and his doppelganger, Leo, is a star of tremendous capacity and talent. Kyle Soller’s Eric Glass is a genuinely gentle soul whose soothing touch reaches out to the suffering characters – such as his turbulent ex-lover Toby Darling (Andrew Burnap), a mechanised Henry Wilcox (John Benjamin Hickley), a pitiable Leo, and theatregoers alike.
Glass’s sentimentality is mirrored in the heart-breaking depiction of a mother who lost her own son to AIDS. Vanessa Redgrave as Margaret is the only female character of the show, appearing almost at the play’s end, however, with such a natural depiction of a mother whose strength was made by the death of her beloved son it is not difficult to forget that she has not been present throughout.
The Inheritance is a six-hour production, divided into two shows, each with two intervals. Perhaps the story could have been told in far less time, as some have suggested. However, if one were to have the time, it is precisely the length that allows the feeling of binging on a TV series, which can be simultaneously the attribute and the flaw of the production.
Photo: Marc Brenner
The Inheritance is at the Noel Coward Theatre from 21st September 2018 until 19th January 2019. Book your tickets here.
Watch the trailer for The Inheritance here: