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Review: Albion, Almeida Theatre

XALBION.jpg.pagespeed.icSat down to watch Albion with a mixture of expectations. A theatre loving friend said they'd left at the interval but Victoria Hamilton and Luke Thallon were both shortlisted for Evening Standard Theatre awards. Now, I don't believe there is too much inference to be drawn from award nominations but I was, nonetheless, encouraged.

And the verdict? Well I definitely didn't want to leave at the interval and Victoria Hamilton and Luke Thallon were very good.

Victoria Hamilton plays Audrey who has just moved from London to a big house in the country. The gardens were once something and she wants to restore them to their former glory. She is obsessed with restoring them to their former glory but that isn't really what the play is about, its about a woman who is adrift, grieving the death of her soldier son James and trying to find an anchor.

She has her patient and self deprecating second husband Paul in tow (a completely lovable Nicholas Rowe) and her university student daughter Zara (Charlotte Hope) who is not happy to be displaced into the country. Also tagging along is Anna (Vinette Robinson) who is James' grief-stricken girlfriend and Audrey's famous writer friend Katherine (Helen Schlesinger).

The house comes with furniture, Matthew (Christopher Fairbank) the gardener and his wife Cheryl (Margo Leicester) who is the cleaner and a neighbour's son, Gabriel (Luke Thallon), who cleans the windows and quickly develops an awkward crush on Zara.

There are slices of modern, middle class dilemma - Cheryl has worked at the house for years but is slow vs the young new Polish woman who can get the job done in half the time and how far should Audrey, the city dweller, go to integrate herself into the local community? It all seems very suited to the Almeida's Islington audience but it is Audrey and her relationships with the people around her which make this play. That and Gabriel's awkwardness and Paul's deadpan self deprecation.

Of the sub-plots not all worked satisfactorily. While Zara's blossoming romance went in an interesting direction and worked well to expose tensions between Audrey and Katherine as well as truths about their friendship, the grief stricken Anna, while brilliantly played by Vinette Robsinson was a harder character and storyline to swallow.

I'm giving it 4 stars and it ran at the Almeida from Oct 10 to Nov 24.