The House of Agnes
Levi David Addai
Oval House Theatre
In a play which is so rich with dialogue it seems somewhat ironic that I find myself at a loss for words in describing The House of Agnes. Brilliant simply does not seem to suffice, but for fear of gushing I shall try to elaborate.
Paines Plough kick off their 2008 season at Oval House with House of Agnes, a humorous and poignant exploration of family ties. After forty years of working and raising her two sons Caleb and Solomon in London, Agnes has decided to return to her home in Ghana. Before she leaves she wants to be certain that her two sons will live in harmony together; however her eldest son, Solomon, is living with a girlfriend who Agnes detests and Caleb is determined to turn his mother's house into a bachelor's pad. This forces the family to address the question: who will live in the house of Agnes?
George Perrin's House of Agnes had its doors wide open, welcoming everyone in as the audience were virtually scattered amongst the living room set. Not your typical theatre going crowd, the audience felt completely at home and relaxed as their audible enjoyment was expressed through loud bouts of laughter and thigh slapping, as well as commenting amongst themselves and nodding in recognition at the characters behaviour.
Not a particularly complex plot, House of Agnes was- as the best things often are- kept fairly simple. It was the rich detail in between that gave Levi David Addai's script such zest and energy. The dialogue had a dynamic rhythm to it as it united the Ghanaian dialect of Agnes with the urban speech of her two sons, which Caleb littered with impressive vocabulary in an attempt to prove his intelligence. There is nothing funnier than a script that doesn't try to be funny. You'll find no gags here but the hilarity emerges through the superbly observed dialogue and of course through the delivery.
Addai's characters were brought to life on stage by an impressive cast. Cecilia Noble's Agnes is both well meaning and overbearing, only wanting the best for her sons and smothering them in the process. A formidable presence on stage, Noble is difficult, loveable, frustrating - everything that a mother should be.
Ludvig Bonin as Solomon and Anwar Lynch as Caleb, both united by understanding and separated by sibling rivalry, are faultless. Their bond on stage is natural and unaffected and their comic timing is impeccable.
It is so wonderful when all the elements come together in a production: script, direction, performance, set, lighting and sound. The House of Agnes perfectly illustrates this. This is a play that will strike a chord with anyone who well, anyone who has a family. Don't just take my word for it though, go and see for yourself. Although a word of advice; make sure you remember to take your shoes off before entering into this "beautiful beautiful" play.
Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan