2011: The year dictators fell and er...artistic directors quit
Dear Santa, please work your magic on London theatre in 2012

The enjoyable but flawed Haunted Child at the Royal Court

Haunted%20childThis isn't a universally well received new play. It certainly had a mixed reception from the group of us that went earlier in the week and I had comments on Twitter including @webcowgirl saying 'hope you enjoy it more than I did'

And I did enjoy it albeit with an eye for its flaws. 

Joe Penhall's play starts with Julie (Sophie Okonedo) comforting her young son who claims to have seen a ghost. It turns out that Jules' husband Douglas (Ben Daniels) has disappeared. The play is about what happens when he returns. Douglas seems to have had a break down or mid life crisis and fallen in with some sort of religious order or cult.

What I liked about it is the emotional journey that Julie goes on. *potential spoilers* There is anger and rejection initially and incredulity at how her non-spiritual husband is suddently obsessed with a form of spirituality.

She moves into fight mode pulling on all her resources to win him back even resorting to seduction in the hope that it will reignite old feelings. And then there is the desperate moment when she almost considers joining him for a moment. 

Ben Daniels is superb, there is a painful feeling of 'lost soul' at the edges of his performance that is quite moving. Sophie Okonedo also has some great moments but, and here is where the flaws come in, is somewhat hamstrung by the script.

At times it sings but others it clunks along quite awkwardly most notably in the scenes with her son. The words put in Julie's mouth just don't convince as a mother-son conversation.

There are elements of the story that could have been explored more. Listening to a discussion about the play on Radio 4's Front Row it was suggested that perhaps a character or two from outside the family was needed to add a different perspective and I think I agree.

It's going to get three and a half stars from me. Haunted Child is downstairs at the Royal Court until Jan 14.

RS/BW 6DS

Only two adult actors to work with but I've done it. Sophie Okonedo was in the second series of Criminal Justice with Maxine Peake who played Mr W's wife in the play Leaves of Glass.

And then Ben Daniels who worked with Felicity Jones in Luise Miller earlier this year. FJ was in The Tempest with Mr W and also the play That Face with Lindsay Duncan who convicted Mr W in the first series of Criminal Justice.

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