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Review: Death Tax, second play in the Royal Court's weekly rep

510x340.fitandcropAfter last week's faltering start with The President Has Come To See You, it feels like the Royal Court's weekly rep is starting to get into its stride.

The second of six plays in the Open Court season, Death Tax by New York writer Lucas Hnath, while not perfect felt a more rounded and, crucially, rehearsed.

Set in a nursing home, Maxine (Anne Calder-Marshall) is an elderly resident who suspects her daughter (Siobhan Redmond) has paid a nurse (Natasha Gordon) to speed her demise to avoid inheritance tax changes that will diminish what she is bequeathed.

To foil the plot, Maxine pays the nurse an additional sum to try and keep her alive until after the tax changes come into force. It sets off a string of dodgy deals where morals and motives are examined as truth becomes distorted.

And in the main there is some really interesting stuff in this piece and some cracking dialogue. The problem is that it feels like two slightly different plays cut and shut together. The final and fifth scene works better with the first and raises interesting questions about the prolonging of life and if we have the ability should we and who should pay?

However it sits awkwardly after the preceding scenes which revolve around the payments, the nurse and the doctor (Sam Troughton) she ropes in to help with the scam. Here the focus is more on the morality behind what they are doing and why but also there is a love/rejection storyline between the nurse and doctor.

There is enough meat to satisfy a couple of plays here and as a result it did run nearly half an hour over the time given by the ushers. Nonetheless it was well performed with Caldwell-Martin scene-stealing and Sam Troughton doing a grand job as the gentle doctor who is taken advantage of just one too many times. Death Tax is at the Royal Court Downstairs until the end of the week.