Buried Child is the West Ends long-awaited play written by Sam Shepherd, starring the multi-award winning star Ed Harris. It is currently running at Trafalgar Studios and if you’re looking for a puzzling drama, thriller, filled with depth and emotion, this is the play for you.
It is a three-hour performance, in three acts. Which can seem a little daunting at first, but the serious talent portrayed from the actors keeps the show at a wonderful pace where time stands still as you’re watching a family drama. This piece draws a brutal light on disenfranchised Americans; it is dark, destructive, and painfully funny. The story is as relevant now as it was during its first run 40 years ago.
The setting/staging was delightfully detailed, right down to the tatty, dirty, kitchen wallpaper and dusty, scuffed flooring. The main stage is set as a front/living room of a house, with stairs leading upstairs, a front porch towards the back of the stage and two corridors, one on stage left and one on stage right, heading towards the kitchen and another room. It was decorated as a run-down, old house, with one main sofa where Ed Harris played his entire performance.
What I especially enjoyed, which brought life, and a sense of realism to the piece, was the use of water. Outside water was pouring to represent rain, and inside there were two buckets on the floor with water dripping into them. The sounds of the water hitting the buckets created a creepy, lonesome atmosphere and exaggerated the space of the room; making me feel as if I were in an empty warehouse, alone.
The actors physically using the lights and undertaking tasks such as peeling carrots and corn gives an extreme sense of truth and adds an every-day dimension to the piece; as if you are watching a real situation. These vegetables have been taken from the back yard by one son, Tilton, who has been told not to go outside. With the vegetables being on stage it is a constant reminder he keeps going out to the back as if he is looking for something. His character is already complex, his childlike ignorance intrigues the audience as they try to understand him and his position in the family home. Why he is there.
The acting in this piece was outstanding. Ed Harris brings out a character that is not only in pain but is painfully funny. He provides the comic relief in tense situations, and with his manly, meanness and silences, the audience are trying to unravel what he is hiding; trying to discover the story beneath this family and their friction. Harris leads this story with a southern charm and was powerful to watch.
There is one scene where Harris has joked about someone stealing his son’s fake leg, and when this actually happens, Harris’ reactions are priceless. Whilst one character is running around the stage with a fake leg, it is difficult to look away from Harris who looks as if his life has been made in just a few seconds; overjoyed by this distress.
Charlotte Hope and Jeremy Irvine play a young couple, Irvine being the son of Tilton. They are on a road trip and stop at the house to say hello to his grandparents. It’s stated that he’s wanting to re-connect with his family, who do not recognise him. It is unclear if this is done on purpose or if they genuinely do not recognise him. Which adds more curiosity and madness to their performances. Together, Irvine and Hope create comedy and tension as their characters are put through a dramatic ordeal. Hope’s character tries to draw out the family secrets and a dramatic family dispute, Harris’ character breaks down and admits everything. (No spoilers, go see the show.)
The whole cast, director and creative team have put together a hard-hitting show that every aspiring actor and theatre enthusiast should see. There is nothing about it that I didn’t enjoy or appreciate.
Finally, on this I would advise: If you like to get the autographs of the actors afterword’s, please don’t forget your sharpies. Look at my beautiful bright blue pen. *Rolls eyes*.