Theatre: The Late Henry Moss

On Thursday evening I had the opportunity to see the Sam Shepard play The Late Henry Moss at the Almeida Theatre. The first thing you notice about this production is what a fantastic set it is. It is probably the best stage I have seen since seeing Two Thousand Years at the National Theatre. There was so much detail in it that it was fascinating to look at even before the actors walked on stage.

The story of the play is two sons who come back to New Mexico to find their alcoholic father dead. But it really isn't the plot that makes the play so interesting, but the dialogue and interplay between the brothers and the locals who last saw their father alive. The acting was naturally terrific and the play unfolded like a good family domestic.

After the first half however those around me weren't sure the play was their cup of tea, but during the second half I took a glance at the rest of the audience, and it was clear people were sitting on the edge of their seats hanging on to everything that was going on stage.

Worth noting is the one female character (played by Flaminia Cinque) in this piece. There is full-frontal nudity as she jumps into a bath and splashes about – so much so that the front row near the bath got wet. I wasn't that close enough but given the theatre is an intimate space it did feel more intimate at this point. But audience participation in the story didn't end there. In the second half there was a flashback involving the father spitting out booze and wetting another front-row audience member.

Anyway, as this was my second Sam Shepard play (I saw Buried Child last year), I could consider myself a bit of a fan of his works. His sublime dialogue is really something. A favourite line from the night (to roughly paraphrase) was when one brother sneered to the other, "If I had a secret family why would I tell you about it?" Now that's something to think about…

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