Jul 24

Review: The House They Grew Up In

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The House They Grew Up In
Minerva Theatre, Chichester
Until 5 August
Box Office: 01243 781312 www.cft.org.uk

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Deborah Bruce’s new play, a co-production with Headlong, manages to be both entertaining and deeply moving. It’s a tale of our time. Middle-aged brother and sister Peppy (Samantha Spiro) and Daniel (Daniel Ryan) live in the house they grew up in amid floor-to-ceiling clutter (Max Jones’s claustrophobic set design is marvelous). Isolating themselves, autistic Daniel spends his days recording a precise log of every passing moment in his diary. Highly strung and obsessed with art history and Cambridge University, Peppy leaves the safety of their nest only for food and, later, to visit Uncle Manny to try to find out why he didn’t make his regular Christmas visit. But the arrival of the little boy next door into their co-dependent lives (superbly played by Rudi Millard on press night) triggers a terrifying change in their reclusive existence, with the police, social workers, neighbours and journalists forcing the much-feared outside world upon them.

Remarkably, what seems certain to be the inevitable conclusion takes a happier turn. Jeremy Herrin’s thoughtful direction and Bruce’s accomplished writing allow Peppy and Daniel to be heard and understood, ultimately earning our compassion and making us feel uncomfortable at failing to feel and extend it sooner.

Beautiful and bitter sweet, the tragedy of the optimistic ending is that in the real world Peppy and Daniel would be the exception rather than the rule.

With superb performances, especially from Spiro and Ryan, this a thought-provoking and fascinating play that deserves a wider audience than its short run in Chichester will generate.