RSC's trailer for Richard II - don't get excited
Video: RSC's production diary for Richard II (David Tennant arrives knowing all his lines apparently)

Review: Rory Kinnear’s debut as a playwright – The Herd at the Bush

The-Herd-by-Rory-Kinnear--010Have always admired Rory Kinnear as an actor - his Iago is currently stealing the show in the National Theatre’s production of Othello. He’s also admired by those important theatre biz people who hand out awards having had two Evening Standard's, an Olivier and an Ian Charleson bestowed on him in recent years. But what’s he like as a playwright?

Promising, is how I’d describe him. His family drama, at the Bush Theatre, has some wonderful moments in it, raising laughs in between its darker moments but it isn’t perfect.

Set around the preparations for Andy’s 21st birthday lunch, tensions are running high. Andy is severely disabled and mother Carol (Amanda Root) distrusts his carers at the home he is in. Daughter Claire (Louise Brealey) has announced a male “friend” Mark (Adrian Bower) is to join the gathering and grandmother (Anna Calder-Marshall) just can’t help being nosey.

If all that weren’t enough tension for one family gathering, Carol’s ex-husband Ian (Adrian Rawlins) turns up out of the blue.

With its cosy kitchen/living room set it almost feels like you are spying on a genuine family get-together. The hidden dynamics of the family unit – the quips, the irritations are all too familiar, or degrees of it are. Despite sniping at each other there is a warmth to the routine and familiarity that the family possess.

The darker issues Kinnear addresses surround the care of Danny and the strain that puts on the family, something that is only heightened with the appearance of the father who abandoned his wife and children some years earlier with only sporadic contact since.

Where I think it worked best was in the lighter family moments, the banter, the nosey grandmother, the affable grandfather (Kenneth Cranham). Where it didn’t was in the arguments. There are a lot of arguments or rather rows which are often full blown and got tiresome. That level of emotion, that frequently just lost its impact. 

This feels like a personal play for Kinnear to write and certainly there were issues I could relate to but perhaps the balance isn’t quite right at the moment. A bit less dark and a bit more light.

Naturally with that cast it is superbly performed. I wouldn’t suggest Kinnear gives up the acting just yet but his first play did hold promise.

The Herd is on at The Bush Theatre until October 26.


Rory Kinnear of course. The two have worked together several times - Hamlet, Richard II and most recently Skyfall.