Following a successful run at the Finborough Theatre, Jordan Tannahill’s play still packs a punch, offering a new insight into mental illness and bullying.
What does it mean to be a bully these days? How can you really tell if those closest to you are suffering from mental illness? These are two essential questions that lie in the centre of Tannahill’s play which offers a different approach to the issues, while remaining as neutral as possible.
In Late Company, Debora and Michael are still coming to terms with the suicide of their teenage son. Trying to move forward with their lives, they invite his tormenter Curtis and his parents to dinner – but instead of finding forgiveness, conversation soon turns increasingly bitter and angry as grief and pain come to the surface.
This blistering play simmers with tension from beginning to end, beautifully building into an extremely confrontational climax – that really shakes the audience to the core. Beginning with subtle side swipes, before transforming into an all mighty confrontation, Tannahill’s play also asks important questions about bullying and metal health, ultimately asking – could anymore have been done to prevent Joel from taking his own life?
While the play doesn’t actually offer many answers or even a proper resolution, Michael Yale’s production always packs a punch at the right moments, whether it is the simple action of Curtis placing cold ice on the cheek of Debora after a particularly nasty bit of conversation or the reading of letters that Curtis and Debora have written to cope with what’s happened.
Yale’s staging constantly makes the audience feel completely involved with what is going – almost like they are the fly on the wall, helped by Zahra Mansouri’s set that completely surrounds the audience like a cocoon. This ensures the intimacy and urgency of what is taking place is never lost.
What is intriguing from both the play and production’s point of view is how it reveals the impact of Joel’s suicide on Curtis and his family – the pain that they suffered because of it, with a few secrets being revealed forcing Debora and Michael to wonder how much they really knew about their son. It tells of how the power of communication can’t be underestimated – particularly when it comes to mental health.
The play and the production have been created in a none judgemental way, but does help to spark a debate on how bullying and mental health could be dealt better. But thanks to the powerful performances of the cast, the pain and anger of all is clearly felt.
Lucy Robinson as Debora delivers a blistering performance, anger mixed with grief as she attempts to come to terms with her loss – doubly felt as elements of her son’s life she didn’t know about comes to light. But she is equally matched by Alex Lowe as Bill, who is bluntly honest and attempts to cut through all the hypocrisies but increasingly frustrated is a well balanced performance.
Yet, it is David Leopold as Curtis who might be an understated personality but actually comes across as the most honest person sitting around the table – conveying quite a bit thanks to his body language and facial expressions giving a lot of insight into the character’s state of mind. A quietly commanding performance.
Overall, Late Company is an angry and powerful piece of relevant drama that doesn’t fail to make an impact on the audience.