THEATRE / Far from the good life: Paul Taylor praises David Storey's Home at Wyndham's

One of the advantages of a late lunch, of course,' Jack declares in David Storey's Home, 'is that it leaves a shorter space to tea.' Having time to kill is an occupational hazard in plays influenced by Beckett, but at least, in Waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon have something, however illusory, to wait for. In Storey's poignant, often painfully funny tone poem of a play, the five characters - inmates in what is gradually revealed to be a vast mental hospital - don't even have that consolation. And there's certainly no release date, you gather, for them to count the days to.

It's an elusive play in which the setting is susceptible to various interpretations. If, at times, it seems to be making a social comment (the cruel impersonality of the place an indictment of the off-stage world of the sane), at others it appears to stand, more existentially, for the human condition - along the lines of T S Eliot's East Coker: 'The whole earth is our hospital / Endowed by the ruined millionaire'. But there are other powerful moments when it is specifically identified with a decayed Britain, the play becoming in part an elegy for a nation that is in decline. This shifting quality adds to the drama's haunting force.

It's a shame that the memory of the Gielgud and Richardson performances in the first Lindsay Anderson production have prevented a major revival for almost a quarter of a century, for, as Paul Eddington and Richard Briers prove beyond doubt in David Leveaux's excellent revival, these are roles that can be richly inhabited by others.

Those who are familiar with these actors only in the time-warp of endlessly recycled episodes of The Good Life may be taken aback by the sight of the two of them now, sitting on what could be the terrace of a seaside hotel and looking far from untouched by age or, in Eddington's case, by serious illness. You are already feeling sad before a word has been spoken.

Briers plays Jack, the jaunty, expansive one with the rakish trilby and the card tricks; Eddington, resembling more than ever some puzzled, pained heron, is the more anxious and fastidious Harry, with the habit of over-prompt concurrence and of removing stray bits of cotton from his own and others' clothing. As they duet in elliptical, unfinished sentences, with many a darting-off into inconsequential stories about an improbable range of relatives, you get the aching sense that these comic, evasive platitudes are the fragments they are shoring against their ruins. Their true histories are clearly too agonising to be revealed; all they can do when conversation approaches that distressing no-go area is mist over briefly in silent tears.

If this pair have taken refuge behind a fragile front of extreme gentility, then it's their misfortune to encounter a couple of working-class female inmates, wonderfully played here by Rowena Cooper and Brenda Bruce, who have all the social delicacy of sniffer dogs.

Swollen-footed, Kathleen whoops with filthy laughter at the faintest double entendre, so I'd better not say that I wondered how Cooper managed to keep it up. Bruce's Marjorie has a beady matter-of-fact directness that pierces the men's defences like some prurient probe. Not that the women aren't hiding desolate secrets from one another. The intermittent presence of Alfred (Jason Pitt), a leucotomised young man who practises a strong-man act on the feather-light garden furniture, tricks you into thinking of the other four as essentially sane. A compassionate play, then, beautifully revived.

Continues at Wyndham's, London WC2. Box office: 071-369 1736

Arts and Entertainment
Above the hat of the toy gibbon, artist Mark Roscoe included a ‘ghost of a bird’ and a hidden message
art
Arts and Entertainment
Alien: Resurrection, Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder
film
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable