Clare Lizzimore
Royal Court Theatre Downstairs

Debbie Chazen, Tess Fontaine, Sam Troughton Credit: Helen Murray
Laura Elphinstone and Sam Troughton Credit: Helen Murray
Angela Terence and Sam Troughton Credit: Helen Murray

A play like Mint is probably as good a justification as Vicky Featherstone could have hoped for when she decided to open her tenure as Artistic Director at the Royal Court with this experimental Weekly Rep project as part of the Open Court Season.

Clare Lizzimore has never previously had a play staged and looks to be a highly promising prospect for the future. Indeed, this is the kind of play that could easily have been produced in the Upstairs Theatre with every chance of a positive reception by public and critics alike.

It may not be perfect yet but considering that the director and actors had only one week of rehearsals together prior to this five night run they have worked wonders.

Pleasingly, the playwright's pairing with young director Caroline Steinbeis comes off well, aided by a really strong cast chosen from the 10-strong season ensemble.

Mint follows the fortunes of Alan, a young jailbird whose long incarceration suggests a terrible crime, although its nature is never revealed.

In the gripping first half of the play, Sam Troughton's character receives a series of familial visitors at various different increasingly open prisons with whom he engages in sometimes witty and frequently insightful small talk.

His parents, sisters and niece played by the remainder of the cast, Alan Williams, Debbie Chazen, Laura Elphinstone, Angela Terence and Tess Fontaine, all contribute to our understanding of the man and his predicament.

The second half sees Alan trying to return to a normal home life, with the world never forgetting his unnamed sin, making the chance of leaving the past behind nigh on impossible.

The play demonstrates that Clare Lizzimore has an ear for dialogue and a good sense of humour. She also knows how to build dramatic tension.

These ingredients should be enough to project into a successful career as a playwright and it is to be hoped that Mint gets further development time and a longer Royal Court run some time soon.

For anybody that can't get to the theatre this week, the text for Mint is available as a free download from Nick Hern Books until 20 July.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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