Wednesday, 6 May 2015

REVIEW - Ah Wilderness, Young Vic


EUGENE O'Neill's coming of age play, Ah, Wilderness is regarded as the American playwright's only real comedy.
It also feels a lot lighter than his other pieces - it is gentle in tone, almost soothing and dreamy in places, seems shorter and the characters don't feel so developed.
It is perhaps because of this that it is also rarely performed. Thank goodness then for a new production now on at the Young Vic directed by Natalie Abrahami which enables this to shine.
And shine it does thanks to a fabulous cast and an ingenious set made up predominantly of a mountain of sand.
Set in Connecticut on Independence Day in 1906 the story is about Richard Miller, a 16-year-old obsessed with poetry, challenging ideas and full of rampaging hormones and teenage angst.
He belongs to a fairly ordinary American family. His parents have high ambitions for their children, are kind and loving but his mother is suspicious of all the books Richard is reading and freequently makes her disapproval known.
Richard is a typical teenager, prone to outbursts, desperate to break free from his parents and conformity but unsure quite how to do so.
But after apparently being dumped by his girlfriend Muriel he sneaks out after the family's 4th of July meal and goes to the local den of iniquity where he tries alcohol for the first time and almost gets seduced.
Meanwhile his mother waits anxiously at the window, desperate for her son to come home, and his father assures her that all will be well.
The acting is superb. Janie Dee is delightful as Richard's mum, constantly worrying about him and trying to keep the family in order and Dominic Rowan is hilarious as the drunken Uncle Sid who can't settle down.
But it is George MacKay as Richard who is the show stealer. He perfectly conveys Richard's adolescence and his mix of romantic ideals, outbursts and vulnerability. It is a real gem of a performance in a great production.

Ah, Wilderness is on at The Young Vic, The Cut, Waterloo until May 23. Tickets from £10. Visit or call the box office on 020 7922 2922.

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