Light treatment for tangled tale of family allegiances

The Gift, Tricycle Theatre, London
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

"Only connect" is the motto of Howards End, and might equally be applied to Roy Williams' new play, The Gift. It is the intense and tangled tale of family love and allegiances, spanning decades and continents: a young man is killed in England and his mother returns to her birthplace, Jamaica, to piece together some connection with the past and the present, the living and the dead.

"Only connect" is the motto of Howards End, and might equally be applied to Roy Williams' new play, The Gift. It is the intense and tangled tale of family love and allegiances, spanning decades and continents: a young man is killed in England and his mother returns to her birthplace, Jamaica, to piece together some connection with the past and the present, the living and the dead.

There are just four characters, but the pace and rhythms of the script and the fluidity of their inter-reaction makes for an impressive performance. It is a play which addresses serious social issues, but it is the social issue examined through the individual and bound into the cross-currents of human relationships. Above all, it strikes one as a colourful play in terms of language, of costume, and in terms of emotion. Such is the skill of Annie Castledine and cast that the phantasmagorical can be woven into the plot of the living with affecting disbelief.

The strongly emotive script and quality of the cast is complemented by a striking set. The music, too, reaches out and demands to be heard. Complementing the music, the blocking is bold, yet totally natural, and the cast connect together in this too.

What is most surprising, however, and, indeed, most delightful, is the humorous element, which is perhaps set off by the darker seams of the play. It is the sort of comedy in which we recognise ourselves: it is the reality of the situation which makes us laugh in recognition. Pair this with slick timing, a slap of irreverence, and an ability to know how far to take the joke and a success is born. Claire Benedict is particularly powerful as Bernice, for it is her perceptive humour which draws the other characters together, and she sets off whoever she acts with. A gift indeed.

Comments