Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Harper Regan

Harper Regan
Harper Regan by Simon Stephens

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I saw this in the bar at BLT: there were some terrific performances but the play itself was flawed and even inept in places.

Through a series of about ten encounters, the almost sociopathic heroine goes back to Stockport to see her dying father because she has never told him she loves him. Yes, the play is built on that most banal of clichés. She decides not to tell her husband where she is going: an illogical act that is never properly explained (she doesn't want him to follow her, but since nobody knows where she's staying she could easily have put his mind at rest without risking being found). She apparently loves him but is quite happy to disappear for two days, leaving the poor man frantic with worry. When she gets back, he happily accepts her perfunctory apologies and wedded bliss returns.

There are numerous mistakes and inconsistencies. Several characters comment on Harper's unusual name, but the story behind the name is never told. The first scene is a meeting with her boss – a man who is surreally creepy in a manner quite out of keeping with the rest of the play. One character is described as separated and is then revealed to have married again. Some workmen comment on the good weather, but ten minutes later the mother says the weather is clearing. Two characters suddenly go off on irrelevant racist rants for no apparent reason whatsoever; perhaps it's just the author's cack-handed way of telling us not to like them.

Some of the dialogue is vibrant and funny, but a lot of it is drab, low-energy murmuring that tails off into silence in unconscious parody of Ingmar Bergman. The vain, self-indulgent heroine is a terrific part (terrifically played in the version I saw), but the play's flaws in plotting and long periods of slow, boring musing about nothing at all make the whole experience a bit dull.

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