Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic - an epic tale of love, loss and life but was it better than Angels?
It is a playful play with laugh out loud moments but in a blink, it is full of pathos and tragedy
The Inheritance at the Young Vic is this year's Angels in America - a two-parter set in New York about a group of gay men.
I really enjoyed Angels but I wasn't bubbling over with the same enthusiasm for it that some had. So I approached Matthew Lopez's play with a hint of trepidation: it's a long play, would this be more of the same?
You could describe it as a sequel to Angel's following the generation of men that grew up after the AIDS epidemic.
The Inheritance of the title in many ways represents the life and society that the Angels' generation paved the way for.
But the play is also heavily influenced by EM Forster's Howard's End examining class, entitlement and privilege and framed as an attempt to tell a story - EM Forster serves as a tutor and mentor at various points.
Truth and fiction playfully interweave the narrative, occasionally options for alternative dialogue is presented as if we are in a narrative brainstorming session - or viewing different perspectives.
But the essence of the play is a love triangle.
Eric Glass (Kyle Soller) lives in a protected rent apartment with his boyfriend Toby (Andrew Burlap) who is adapting his debut novel into a play.
Their group of gay friends often congregate at the apartment - Eric is a good cook and host but at one such gathering a young man, Adam (Samuel H Levine), turns up to return Toby's bag, Toby having taken his own, identical, bag in error.
Heartbreak and obsession
That encounter sends each on a journey that none of them could have foreseen, a journey of love, heartbreak, obsession, success and tragedy, a journey that makes and breaks them and forces painful introspection.
A journey that unfolds over six and half hours of theatre.
And it, for the most part, it was utterly gripping which, given how it is staged, is a testament to the writing, Stephen Daldry's direction and the casts superb performances.
There are no sets as such and very few props with which to embellish the narrative. What you get is a table/plinth like stage which is almost entirely bare.
Most of the cast spend the duration on stage, sat around the edges when their characters aren't 'in play', sometimes passing or receiving props - a glass of scotch, a bag or a coat.
This gives the play energy, flow, a sense of fun and also the feeling, once again, of ideas being workshopped.
Stands up on its own
But it never detracts, in fact, it directs attention firmly on the narrative. Without the embellishment of sets and other theatre wizardry, the performances and story have to stand up alone - it has to engage, connect, intrigue and grab attention otherwise it would fall flat.
And it does, and it does consistently in a way that Angel's just didn't for me.
The Inheritance has a bigger cast and yet it feels like a more intimate story, one in which you really get under the skin of the central characters - and they, in turn, get under your skin.
It is a playful play with laugh out loud moments but in a blink, it is full of pathos and tragedy. It is a play full of joy and heartbreak and for that reason alone I loved it.
There are two weeks left in the run and it is returns only but try and grab tickets if you can.
It's at the Young Vic until May 19 and you can see each part individually or there are selected dates to see both parts in one day.
Part 1: 3 hours 15 mins (with 2, 10 min intervals). Part 2: 3 hours 20 mins (with 1, 10 min interval and a 5 min 'pause')
Podcast: The Inheritance writer Matthew Lopez discusses his play
Production photos via What's On Stage.
Edit 5/10 - The Inheritance has transferred to the West End, details and production photos.