I did think of starting this with a clumsy Beatles parallel. You know the sort of thing: in the early sixties two musicians called John and Paul had a song writing partnership. Of the two John was better looking and seemed more obviously creative. Yet it was the quieter, more skilled musician, Paul who created their first classic hit Yesterday.
Of course this parallel doesn't bear close inspection, if only because the play is about an architectural partnership and has a love triangle. It probably also gives away the ending of the play.
I saw this play about ten years ago and I seem to remember it being a great deal quieter. That was in a smaller venue (the Donmar Warehouse) so the earlier production didn't need to make as much noise as this one. They seemed to be trying to fill up a larger space and give the audience more opportunities to laugh. I wouldn't say this approach didn't suit the play, many lines worked better, in the first half, done in a more heightened, nerve-jangling way but I did feel less interested in the characters' stories before the interval. It was almost as if we had been presented with a finished tale – An Architectural partnership where one had all the talent and died earlier, while the other was a hack who, afterwards, lived off their shared reputation, always feeling guilty about taking undeserved credit. In spite of knowing the play already, I felt as if I didn't need to find out what really happened to the parents. Somehow there was no mystery.
The second half, where we see the parents' stories, was played more quietly and gently and had more people get soaked to the skin in a narrow curtain of rain at the front of the stage. The “getting soaked” was especially true for Nigel Harman who spent much of the second act standing in the rain striking “struggling artist” poses.
Actually I had a slight problem with Nigel Harman, which will sound odd or even familiar, I didn't think that he had that easy sex-appeal that either of his characters seemed to require. In fact I spent some of the first act wondering if his character was meant to be gay.
James McAvoy was far too unsympathetic in the first act but made up for it in the second. These complaints about theactors are really about what they were being asked to do rather than what they actually did.
Nowadays every time I see Lyndsey Marshal I hope that she'll get a decent love story with a happy ending (something she was robbed of in A Matter of Life and Death amongst other things). Not, of course, that she'd want to do something so easy but somehow I think she deserves one.
I seem to remember that when I first saw this play I enjoyed it but couldn't see what the fuss was all about. That is pretty much how I felt this time.