I get the feeling that when this play was first produced back in 1969 people would have understood the problems that two of the brothers had, without needing any explanation. Perhaps it can be said that there was a time when working class people with an education would fret and worry (or cry themselves to sleep) over things like leaving their roots behind and going to live a stultifying middle-class existence that is nowhere near the ambition or the promise that was the motivation for all that book learning. The modern suspicion of educated people being fake or not ‘real’ and the idea of the impotence caused by over-thinking a subject, are probably echoes of this. Of course I can guff on about the attitudes of the working classes for ages (even with my ignorance of the subject) but the point I’m really trying to make is that this is something the play doesn’t do. It takes it as read that people will get it and the thing is that I’m not sure that people do. I was left, along with other members of the group with whom I went to this play, with the feeling that there were several pages of dialogue missing from the play which would explain just what was troubling the brothers, Andrew and Stephen. There are intimations that the mother was somehow a hypocritical tyrant (a desire for extreme cleanliness together with being immorally six months pregnant when she got married) but they never really came to anything and the mother was not anything like harridans such as the mother in the Anniversary or even Sailor Beware.
I also wondered if the play should have been set on an earlier wedding anniversary - the twenty-fifth would have been much suitable for the brothers’ characters and given more immediacy to their problems. Of course you wouldn’t have got the retirement sub-plot or the settled self-satisfied success of the middle brother.
The reason I went in a group was that a large number of people wanted to see Orlando Bloom on stage and he didn’t disappoint, even if they would have preferred him in a starrier role with some pyrotechnic acting (Paul Hilton had that role). What I couldn’t quite understand is why he was made up to look like Richard Benjamin (it was the moustache and the slicked-down curly hair). I think if more of the Orlando fans in the audience had seen ‘classics’ like Westworld or Love at First Bite, there might have been giggles. There’s been some stuff on websites recently about applauding the star on their first entrance and I was expecting a bit when mister Bloom came on but I only heard one unconfident clap which quickly faded away.