Hang Lenny Pope
Northern Stage, Newcastle, and touring
Ray is making his last ever coffin.
His firm is closing, his craftsmanship abandoned and his son is dead.
Lenny is dead and the 'dead don't get second chances'.
Murdered Lenny, his son who has created his own world of destruction and left the pieces scattered for his tormented parents to rebuild. Can the love that created their son enable them to let him go and find redemption? And can Lenny convince his father to give him one final gift? His belief.
The writer of the highly acclaimed trilogy (Car, Raw and Kid), Chris O'Connell has flipped his writing from the perspective of children to that of their parents in this uncomfortable and sobering play that explores the reality of parental struggle and blame that is never able to vanish, just constantly redistributed. The argument of nature versus nurture trickles through the play though as in life, never really able to be concluded. This, for the simple reason that the circumstances that lead to such contemplation are too dangerous to begin stripping ourselves of our barriers. Thus continuing confusion and blinding guilt cloud the truth and it is rarely ever found.
Hang Lenny Pope uses a simple set of white door frames and white chairs surrounding a wooden coffin with an unfinished lid and a dubious hammer strewn across it. With no 'walls', the space is open, empty and desolate. A jaunty song opens the show though the minimalist theme is continued with very few effects.
This near-to-blank canvas becomes magically enriched and brimming with imagery as O'Connell's words paint their beautiful pictures. This is theatre at its best. There are no gimmicks, no cheap shots, just wonderful words and glorious actors. The strong cast of four are thoroughly outstanding and completely grounded in O'Connell's compelling language, frantically dancing in and out of past and present with urgency for absolution.
At just over an hour, Hang Lenny Pope is a reminder that it is quality, not quantity that can transport us to another world and leave us breathless.
At Northern Sage until 28th April, then touring to the Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells (1-2 May) and the Tobacco Factory, Bristol (3-5 May)
Reviewer: V Mitchell