I saw In Basildon on Monday and gave it four stars. It lost a star for the staging which added nothing and for wanting a teeny bit of script pruning to balance the pace but otherwise was extremely enjoyable and very well done.
The professionals saw it on Wednesday and have given it four stars across the board. Interesting that Paul Taylor of the Indy sat in the same camp as me with regards to the staging while Michael Billington liked it. Just goes to show, doesn't it:
The simmering family feuds in David Eldridge’s fine new play are threaded through a discussion of the lives they’ve all led in transit from the East End in the Second World War to “overspill” Essex in Romford and now the “plotlands” of Basildon and nearby villages of Laindon and Vange.
It’s not just because I am familiar with these demographic shifts that I enjoy the play so much; Eldridge is on to something that hasn’t been written about much, or at least so well, in our theatre.
Cooke directs a gripping, admirably acted production. Linda Bassett and Ruth Sheen chillingly capture the corrosive resentment of the sisters, while Lee Ross (as Bassett’s son) and Debbie Chazen (as his wife) hilariously lay bare an unhappy marriage blighted by infertility and fecklessness.
David Eldridge's In Basildon is a gloriously rich, humorous, agonising and politically provocative play, but it has been staged by the Royal Court's artistic director, Dominic Cooke, in a bafflingly peculiar, not to say, counterproductive way.
Rather than the familiar imagery of Towie or Birds Of A Feather, Eldridge serves up something closer to Chekhov - albeit with a meaty Essex twist. This a play about inheritance and domestic disharmony, at times deeply poignant yet replete with references to West Ham and Walthamstow's defunct dog track.
And this richly observant play is given a near-perfect production by Dominic Cooke who, with designer Ian MacNeil, restructures the Court so that the audience, like the family, is divided in two.