Review: CASTLE LENNOX, Lyceum Theatre

Lung Ha Theatre bring Castle Lennox to Edinburgh's Lyceum Theatre

By: Apr. 01, 2023
Review: CASTLE LENNOX, Lyceum Theatre

Review: CASTLE LENNOX, Lyceum Theatre

Castle Lennox is a play by Linda McLean, directed by Maria Oller and presented by Lung Ha Theatre Company. In the works since 2015, Castle Lennox looks at the history of institutions that were used from the 1930s to the 1990s to remove people with learning disabilities from society.

Annis (Emma McCaffrey) is a sixteen-year-old girl who lost her mother when she was young and her father has left home and left Annis in the care of her stepmother. Under the advisement of a doctor, her stepmother takes her to an institution to live as he insists it will be best for both of them. Annis loves fairytales and is excited to see that it is a real-life castle that she'll be visiting- not realising this is her permanent home from now on.

A lively and chatty young woman, Annis is shocked to learn the setup of her new home. Inhabitants have to 'earn' privileges and do chores under the watchful eyes of the needlessly cruel staff. It's unclear why the staff are so thoroughly unpleasant to the residents of the institution. Their attitudes, the enforced medication and the isolation chip away at Annis' personality and she is a very different woman years later who has lost her spark.

While there are a lot of important ideas to explore in Castle Lennox it feels as though we are only at the tip of the iceberg with them. The show blurb celebrates the friendship and magical nature of the relationships forged inside this castle but that isn't something we see until the very end of the show. The motivation behind the cruelty of the staff doesn't seem to go much beyond them just being seen as bad people and the same goes for the stepmother who is seen to be living a life of extravagance since she left Annis in their care.

Castle Lennox is a play with songs which brings a lighthearted nature to proceedings. The songs are disappointing and forgettable but the cast are clearly enjoying the musical aspect of the show. It's a fairly short show at just seventy-five minutes with no interval but the time does drag as the storyline is so slow-paced.

On a more positive note, Karen Tennent's set design is beautiful and works well with changing between the more clinical side of the facility and the more magical elements. A BSL interpreter is also onstage throughout. The performances (especially from McCaffrey) are very good but they are let down by the writing.

While it's an important subject to bring to light, Castle Lennox doesn't go deep enough into the history of these institutions and the sudden happy ending of the play feels a bit disingenuous.

Photo credit: Pete Dibdin


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