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Review: Mint, fourth play in the Royal Court's weekly rep

510x340.fitandcrop-1Mint is Clare Lizzimore's first play and it starts off well enough. Alan (Sam Troughton) is in prison and receives various family visitors from his quiet father (Alan Williams) to his chatty and unsubtle mother (Debbie Chazen) and two sisters.

The first three quarters of the play see Alan transferred from prison to prison, his older sister Stephanie (Laura Elphinstone) gets married and has a daughter, Amber (played later by Tess Fontaine) while his younger sister Nicola (Angela Terence) completes her school education and goes to university.

As time passes the families lives go on, Alan becomes more accustomed to prison life and the visits evolve from from the awkward initial conversations and inappropriate comments to something resembling a new normal.

Alan is eventually released and there is a slightly awkward family celebration. However the initial excitement and promise of a new start quickly fades as the harsh reality of life with a criminal record sets in.

Where Mint goes wrong is in the final scene where Alan, who is keen to become a chef, has cooked the family a meal to celebrate Nicola's graduation. His father is tipped over an invisible edge when Alan accidentally spills a glass of wine and he proceeds to berate and taunt his son in a very cruel way as if years of suppressed feeling has suddenly bubbled to the surface. It comes out of no where - there is only one visiting scene between Alan and his Dad - and without knowing what Alan was in prison for it is a difficult one to reconcile.

The prison sentence is a longish one, from the time line of family events possibly around 8 years so he's obviously done something particularly bad but even so, the father's outburst comes out of the blue. Had there been a sense of suppressed outrage or growing anger it might have worked.

Not the strongest of scripts but another great performance from Sam Troughton who manages to convey a whole gambit of emotions (and is a bloody good stage crier). He even looked pleased at the curtain call which must be a first.

Mint is on at the Royal Court theatre downstairs and finishes today.

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