Theatre: Buried Child

I saw Buried Child at the National Theatre in 2004 and thought it was hilarious. The version I saw on Friday at Upstairs at the Gatehouse turned out to be less so. It probably did not help making a mad dash from south London to be there and finding severe delays impacting my journey, but I have been to the Gatehouse enough times to not be too bothered by that, particularly when the performances are good.

This is a play that challenges the American dream, highlights the poverty of rural life in America and looks at the breakdown of family values. These topics have been in plenty of plays, but here they are presented in a brutally honest way that alternates between the real and surreal. You often need to read between the lines to understand what is going on.

In the second act there is a line about persistence, fortitude and determination which is what the family were about. Unfortunately these are also requirements in this production for the audience as the timing, pacing and delivery was way off. This made the characters unsympathetic and (even worse for a Friday night)... unfunny.

Still there was a lot to admire in this ambitious production. This included a great set design by Martin Thomas and lighting by Howard Hudson, which made it one of the better looking fringe productions I have seen in some time. There was so much corn and carrots on stage at one point I had an overwhelming urge for a vegetable side dish. A pity the pub downstairs is just a bog standard Wetherspoons as Highgate could do with a gastro-pub. It runs until 3 April.

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