Review: Mint, Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Royal Court ✭✭✭

More than 5 years of Alan’s life are crammed into 80 minutes of drama in Mint, one of the weekly rep productions as part of the Open Court Festival. The Royal Court’s Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone has handed over the reins to various new directors and writers, resulting in a synergy of dynamic plays, talk shows, open mic nights and other titans of artistic delight.

Clare Lizzimore’s Mint, in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, reveals the multiple visits that Alan receives from his family whilst he serves a prison sentence for armed robbery, and later depicts his return to the family home. A convict looking for work, seeking to please and appease, Alan struggles to keep his cool as his mum flaps about, his dad maintains the silence, and his sisters continue to blame him for his past misdemeanours. Lots of family drama, then.

Lizzimore’s script remains light and naturalistic during the first half of the show whilst Alan remains in prison; however, as the family gatherings during the second half become more sinister, and the script begins to lean towards the heavy-handed.

The acting is similarly naturalistic and often humourous, interspersed with rather melodramatic moments that seem rather self-indulgent instead of poignant. Sam Troughton as Alan is best when lightheartedly attempting to explain his 5-year absence to his young niece Amber; Angela Terence provides comedic relief as Alan’s younger sister Nicola; and Debbie Chazen was far too young and unforgiving to be believable as Alan’s mother. Yet if one remembers that the cast and director only had a week’s rehearsal from page to stage, the detail within the performances ought really to be commended.

The set appears to be minimalist, at least whilst Alan remains in prison, and the wooden crate and lighting strips effectively recreate the boxed-in nature of Alan’s life. Once he is back home however, ample props are used to present various kitchen-table set ups, which make for slightly labourious scene changes executed by the cast themselves.

Directorial choices were made which sometimes resulted in highly moving, nuanced moments, and at other times erred towards the dramatically contrived. By the end of the show I was exhausted, having witnessed a roller-coaster of emotions and a whirlwind of time in one household, and I still wasn’t sure who I was rooting for.

*** (3 Stars)
Runs until 6th July 2013
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