Review: Rare Earth Mettle, Royal Court Theatre - humour carries this meaty play

Review: Manor, National Theatre - unsatisfying hodgepodge

As the stage was plunged into darkness at the end of Manor on the National Theatre's Lyttelton stage, I was thinking: What was the point?  

The applause died down and the actors left the stage, I turned to my friend who said what I was thinking before I had the chance.

National Theatre at night
Manor is on the Lyttelton stage at the National Theatre

Manor is an odd play and one that will divide given the mixed response from those sitting around us.

Set in a crumbling restoration-era manor house, on a stormy day with floodwaters rising, Lady Diana Stuckley (Nancy Carroll) is arguing with her husband Pete (Owen McDonnell).

He's off his tits on drugs (to put it bluntly), but the row whiffs of a marriage long past its sell-by date.

When daughter Isis (Liádan Dunlea) appears, there is no cessation of hostilities, and the mood doesn't get any better when strangers start arriving seeking shelter from the storm.

There's Ripley (Michele Austin), a nurse training to be a doctor and moody teenage daughter (Dora) Shaniqua Okwok, who were staying at a nearby holiday cottage.

And the charismatic-as-a-snake, Ted Farrier (Shaun Evans), who is the leader of a far-right group, accompanied by his blind girlfriend Amy (Ruth Forrest) and loyal recruit Anton (Peter Bray) in tow.

Local vicar Fiske (David Hargreaves) and unemployed youth Perry (Edward Judge), who lives in a caravan nearby, make up the group.

Remind you of something?

The set-up immediately reminded me of The Mousetrap, but while Manor is described as darkly comic on the National Theatre website, there isn't a great deal to laugh at unless you find fat-shaming funny.

There is an antique gun in the house and another 'loaded gun' device which is far too obvious to generate any surprise when it does 'go off'.

It leaves the first half with a lot of irritated people and little by way of narrative drive - even the storm seems to subside.

Ted talks like he's in a Pinter play, particularly when he is in conversation with Nancy. It's like he's in a different story to everyone else. Ripley and Dora are down to earth and talk like normal people - I wanted to spend more time with them.

Theme-park set

The set looks like it's come straight from a theme-park haunted house, and that doesn't sit well with the play either.

It's a hodgepodge of nastiness: racism, misogyny, homophobia, class, patriotism, cultural identity, coercion, terrorism, domestic violence with a ghost thrown in for good measure. But I couldn't tell you what the play had to say about any of it.

In fact, I sat waiting for a revelation that never came. Instead, the only surprise was that it ended without one.

I'm giving Manor ⭐️⭐️ - one of those is for the staircase, which was great, even if it didn't suit the play.

Curious as to what others thought.

Manor, National Theatre

Written by Moira Buffini.

Directed by Fiona Buffini

Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including an interval

Booking until 1 Jan 2022.

More details and tickets on the National Theatre website.

Recently reviewed:

Rare Earth Mettle, Royal Court ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

'Night, Mother, Hampstead Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

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