The Fairy Godmother probably has a lot to be responsible for, and fortunately (so far!) she’s shown herself to have awesome taste (obviously, just look at her friends…). She introduced me to NT Live, which I am sure I was so behind the times on- I get to meet her in our hometown, we pop into the cinema and get transported to London, it’s been awesome.
And in the process, I was introduced to the Young Vic and loved everything about it, oh yes, completely behind the curve. And whilst staying in an absolutely random shared apartment with work, I found The Cut on my way back from a few drinks on the Southbank, and so two worlds collided.
In a recent bid to start enjoying the theatre more, namely by going solo, so this week I found myself a little bit giddy, as a ticket for Ah, Wilderness! was purchased.
Ah, Wilderness! is Eugene O’Neill’s only comedy, written in 1933 it is perceived to be a recollection of O’Neill’s youth, as he wished it had been. Set on 4th July 1906 the play focuses on the Miller family and predominately on Richard, the 16-year old son.
It would be remiss of me not to mention, what first greets you as you take your seats, the setting, the sand filled stage. And one would wonder how this would be interpreted without warning. The programme describes the choices made by set designer, Dick Bird, the focus on the play’s autobiographical basis, a beachside house, and of the play being based upon memory, and Bird’s own fascination with a picture of a ghost town in Nambia, where the sand had invaded the derelict houses. I would guess this to be a brave choice, not least for the challenge which faced the cast, I am guessing unscripted falls are frequent, with only momentary panic followed by an adlib to boot. What is added, of course, it caused some thought, reflection, and it allowed for a wonderful scene between Richard Miller and Muriel, with water added to the mix, but it felt, on the whole, more to challenge thought than perspective.
There was also the addition on stage of David Annen, who as well as interweaving two roles, also appeared to take on a role of writer/ narrator without voice, reflecting perhaps the manner in which O’Neill provided a narrative to his memories, it felt under the direction of Natalie Abrahami there was a need to focus on the hold of our memories under the strain of the passing of time.
As the play unfolded, so it became apparent that the strength of the Young Vic is in its appeal to such a wide-ranging audience, the play evoked different levels of laughter from the different groupings throughout, from references to Oscar Wilde and Bernard Shaw, the antics of Tommy Miller and his 4th July firecrackers, both mostly for me, of Richard Miller and his search for heart-wrenching, soul-filling, all-encompassing love.
And what a joy was the journey, I left with the spring of feel-good. Some complexities, that of the relationship between Sid Davis and Lily Miller still understood and unfulfilled. Alongside wonderful performances, Dominic Rowan as Sid was absolutely memorable- especially for his poor behaviour over dinner. Martin Marquez and Janie Dee created a wonderful strength in the role of parents, Essie and Nat Miller, with a range of emotions creating humour and the nervous energy best exhibited by the worries created by a child.
Beyond all was George Mackay as Richard Miller, I loved his naive and confident strength, the absolute conviction which arrives from a book, the unconfidence found in new situations, but the absolute heartfelt angst only truly known by a teenager.
A wonderful first outing for me at the Young Vic, Ah Wilderness! lightened the day, it allows the joy of first love to be relived and the optimism of life to be appreciated.
Direction: Natalie Abrahami
Design: Dick Bird
Costumes: Sussie Juhlin-Wallén
Lighting: Charles Balfour
Music & Sound: Ben & Max Ringham
Movement: Ann Yee
Casting: Julia Horan CDG