BWW Reviews: THE LYONS, Menier Chocolate Factory, September 27 2013
How often do you unite with your family? Only at Christmas and on birthdays? Or do they live next door and are therefore constantly popping over for milk?
For the dysfunctional Lyons, their most recent reunion is over the hospital bed of their dying father Ben (played with resigned grouchy gusto by Nicholas Day), and none of them observe the etiquette of bedside manners.
Isla Blair is wonderful as Jewish matriarch Rita, tricked into marriage and having to wait out 40 unhappy sparring years of it before she can finally find herself as a widow. Act 1 opens with her flicking through a home furnishing magazine by her husband's bedside as she savors the fact that with his absence, she can finally redecorate.
Her two appalling children, recovering alcoholic Lisa (Charlotte Randle) and gay fiction writer Curtis (Miranda's Tom Ellis) decide that upon hearing the news that their father is not long for this world, now's the opportune moment to spill some home truths.
Each has secrets about the other and their already fragile relations are tesTed Further, seemingly by an awkward need just to fill the silence. Poor Curtis is loathed by his father for being gay "since the age of 7 or 13," and Lisa, finding the world mired in tragedy at every turn, is therefore paralysed by her own selfishness.
As the black comedy takes a more sinister tone in Act 2 with some mild abduction and stalking, the characters are forced to face up to their own futures.
Nicky Silver's writing is sublime with each actor clearly relishing the chance to spew vitriol (even the nurse gets some great lines; "there are two types of people in this world; happy, and sad, lonely and mean - you strike me as the second kind," to her suffering patient). There's also a LOT of wonderful swearing.
The questions are posed; do people possess an inner poise and become personable when they are faced with imminent death, do their characters remain the same or do they, in fact, purge everything they've ever wanted to say.
A huge hit on Broadway Mark Broklaw has directed a very funny family melodrama, catch it before death becomes you too.
At the Menier Chocolate Factory until 16th November.
Photo by Nobby Clark