Neil (Vincent Franklin) is a doctor taken out of the headlines, rewarded with a knighthood for services during the pandemic. He gathered family and friends to celebrate his achievements on his 55th birthday. The Snail House begins with zero-hour catering staff, Wynona (Megan McDonnell) and Habeeb (Raphel Famotibe), preparing dinner at their son’s former private school – with a beautiful setting by Tim Hatley. Neil’s family isn’t that involved in all of this. Eldest, Hugo (Patrick Walshe McBride), is a right-wing man who suggests that his father is not very accepting of his sexuality. Sarah (Grace Hogg-Robinson), is semi-retired from…
Neil (Vincent Franklin) is a doctor taken from the headlines, awarded a knighthood for services provided during the pandemic. He gathered family and friends to celebrate his achievements on his 55th birthday. the snail house starts with the zero-hour catering team, Wynona (Megan McDonnell) and Habeeb (Rafael Famotibe), preparing dinner at her son’s old private school – with beautiful scenography by Hatley team.
Neil’s family isn’t that involved in all of this. Old, Hugo (Patrick Walshe McBride), is a right-wing scoundrel who suggests that his father is not very accepting of his sexuality. Sara (Grace Hogg-Robinson), is semi-distant from the family – by choice. She’s a member of the Extinction Rebellion, and unfortunately, that’s the only defining aspect of her. Neil’s long-suffering wife Val (eve daddy) appears stuck in the middle among them all. Bits of her past—her class, giving up her nursing job, and her husband’s infidelity—are touched upon briefly and then swept away. Early mentions of the pandemic and division over herd immunity and lockdowns go nowhere, existing mostly as shouted jokes for tedious family discussions. That’s before they even mention Brexit. Not such a happy family. The cast does their best in thankless roles, with their characters being little more than caricature with obscure one-note motivations.
Neil has a previous connection with Florence (Amanda Bright), who is a last-minute replacement as catering manager. What happened here? Was this performance deliberate to give Florence the opportunity to confront Neil? Many questions remain for what turns out to be a central component of the play. Was Florence going to say something or did Sarah’s Google search bring up the subject? While none of this is clear, Bright manages to give Florence a quiet dignity that stands out against the shrillness around her.
At one point, Sarah asks “What about Billy?”, and there’s a pause, as they’re clearly supposed to be reflecting on Billy. I have no idea who Billy is – there is no Billy in the play and no previous mention of Billy! There may be a line to infer that he was/is a previous patient of Neil’s, but if so, I’m not sure the intention was to make me dig through the text of the play afterwards, trying to figure out if I was frustrated because I missed something or because the piece had.
There are some moments of real heat, strangely both driven by the music. Wynona and Habeeb singing The Supremes as they set the table is an example. So the moment we see a real, warm connection between the brothers, they let loose drunk. do not look Back In Anger as he derives from the party next door.
the snail house it is unrealistic throughout, and in the simplest of things too. Minutes after drunk dancing on a table, Hugo is not just driving home, but asking and taking the keys to get another car out of the way first. Zero hour contract employees are rude and hostile to the teacher before they are even paid. When Sarah insists that Neil apologize to Florence, he has to pay and tip her and… nothing gets done with it. There isn’t a moment of awkwardness on either side or anything subtle, it just sits there smoothly.
it is not clear that the snail house know what you’re trying to be. He touches on many topics but doesn’t give any of them time or respect to unfold. There are awkward moments of connection and pleasure, but it’s largely messy and needs refinement.
Written and Directed by: Richard Eyre
Scenography by: Tim Hatley
The Snail House is running at the Hampstead Theater through October 15th. More information and reservations can be found here.
Source : dial.news