Flower-power folly laid bare
The legacy of the 1960s takes centre stage in playwright Stephen Beresford's debut play, The Last of the Haussmans. Fifty years on, a flower-power mother is still at the helm of a dysfunctional family.
Her son and daughter have gathered at the family home in Devon, where she has recently undergone surgery for melanoma.
This National Theatre Live production, which has recently finished its run at the Lyttelton Theatre in London, is directed by Howard Davies. It is a character-driven comedy-drama with a strong cast.
Award-winning screen and stage actress Julie Walters returns to the National Theatre stage after a decade's absence to play Judy, the joyfully outspoken and eccentric hippie mother, whose adult children have not coped well in their lives and would easily lay the blame on her very unconventional mothering.
Judy's dilapidated art-deco home is almost another character in the play. It is prime real estate, lying on South Devon's seaside coast, surrounded by houses belonging to millionaires and celebrities.
While Judy stills holds the idea that property ownership is the root of all evil, her children are more practical in that regard.
Her daughter, Libby (Helen McCrory), drifts through the world pursuing damaged relationships, but cares a great deal about the house and is anxious about what she considers her rightful inheritance.
Still holding her mother responsible for all that has gone wrong in her own life, she repeats history as she tussles with her resentful teenage daughter, Summer (Isabella Laughland).
Rory Kinnear plays Nick, a recovering alcoholic and heroin addict, who can't hold down a job. He develops hopeless crushes on unavailable men and sums up his mother's ineffective parenting by his line that her generation was too busy "wanking into a chrysanthemum" to notice much else going on around them.
Vicki Mortimer's set has been praised by the reviewers for its detail, scale and grandeur - a peeling Bauhaus on a revolving stage.
Combining real conflict, pain and laughs, Beresford's combination of witty dialogue and believable characters should make for a highly entertaining show.
- The Last of the Haussmans, directed by Howard Davies, National Theatre Live, 2012, 2 hours including intermission, State Cinema, Sunday 3pm, Monday 5.45pm, Wednesday 11am. Adults $25, seniors/children $20.