Margaret (Imelda Staunton) is a single mother with a disabled child, relying on the help of her neighbours in an underprivileged area of Boston and her poorly paid job as a checkout assistant. When she gets fired from her job things look bleak until she meets up with an ex-boyfriend that she hasn’t seen in many years (Lloyd Owen) and she starts to question the future and their shared past. The play looks at the themes of how much we can shape our lives. Is the American dream of being able to achieve whatever we want, provided we work hard enough, true or are we more likely to be just victims of circumstance and luck than we like to think? A trend for dismissing people who are financially and socially disadvantaged prevails but is it fair to label them as deserving of their own fate?
Both Staunton and Owen are magnificent in their roles and are well supported by a strong cast. Staunton’s portrayal of Margaret captures the feisty anger, undercut by insecurity and angst and she lives up to her reputation as one of the most talented contemporary actresses around. Owen is equally powerful as Mike, her old friend and ex. David Lindsay-Abaire’s (Pulitzer Prize winning author of the much acclaimed ‘Rabbit Hole’) script is incredibly tight with fast paced and naturalistic dialogue and killer one liners. Owen and Staunton spar with aplomb and impeccable timing and do justice to a beautifully written script.
Hildegard Bechtler’s set is a stunning backdrop to the piece. Act one features a versatile, ever changing, South Boston environment, transforming from back alley, to doctor’s office, to bingo hall with act two switching to a smart North Boston house.
It’s easy to understand why this play transferred from Hampstead. This comes highly recommended.