Friday, 18 April 2014

Review - A Small Family Business at the National Theatre


IN 1987 playwright Alan Ayckbourn wrote A Small Family Business for the Olivier stage at the National Theatre.
Now, some 27 years later it is back in a glorious revival directed by Adam Penford, and again on the Olivier stage.
It was written as a response to the Thatcherite greed is good philosophy of the 1980s.
Ayckbourn's hero Jack McCracken is a man who has inherited the family furniture business from his father in law who is in the early stages of dementia.
To celebrate the new job, Jack's wife organises a surprise party for him, inviting all the extended family who it transpires all have certain "interests" in the firm.
Jack somewhat naively promises a new regime of absolute honesty, right down to accounting for every last paperclip.
What he doesn't realise is that the entire family has been bleeding the company dry over the years, filching a bit here a bit there, and all under the absolute belief that they are doing nothing wrong.
They even, thanks to Jack's sister in law Anita McCracken, have rather dodgy connections to the Italian mafia.
If Jack thinks he can implement his plans he's in for a shattering shock right from the get go thanks to an unwelcome visit from a private investigator with some compromising information.
And so as Jack's integrity starts to fade away, the scene is set for a farcical series of events which build to a macabre climax.
The cast is great though special mention must go to Niky Wardley who is brilliant as the vampy, tarty and totally amoral Anita.
Nigel Lindsay is fantastic as Jack desperately trying to stay on the moral high ground and being genuinely angry and disgusted at his family's attitude to stealing.
Matthew Cottle is suitably oily and disagreeable as the creepy inspector, hunched and wearing a dirty trench coat and trilby hat which look grubbier as the play progresses.
But for me the real star of the show was the amazing revolving set, a two storey house, designed by Tim Hatley.

A Small Family Business is on at the National Theatre until August 27. Tickets from £15. Call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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