THEATRE REVIEW: The Cane starring Nicola Walker, Maggie Steed & Alun Armstrong

WORTH A LOOK?: ***

WHERE? Royal Court RUN TIME: 100 minutes (no interval)

WHEN?: 29/12 (matinee), runs to 26/1/19

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time returned recently to the West End and it was for her part in the original production that Nicola Walker (who we last saw in A View From The Bridge in 2015) won a Best Supporting Actress Olivier.

  • Read on for reasons including why Walker’s interrogative qualities honed on TV are well realised here

The star of TV’s Last Tango In Halifax (twice shortlisted for a Best Supporting Actress BAFTA), River, Spooks, Unforgotten and The Split brings the interrogative qualities associated with some of her best loved roles to this new play by Shopping and F**king author Mark Ravenhill.

Walker plays Anna who drops in on her estranged father Edward days before he is due to retire as a deputy headteacher at a school which he has worked in for almost half a century. We meet Anna’s mother Maureen (Maggie Steed convincing as a bullied housewife teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown) and learn that more than 100 of Edward’s pupils are protesting outside his home.

Edward used to administer the cane to schoolboys before the punishment was outlawed and this appears to be the reason why the schoolchildren are unhappy with him.

We also learn that Edward’s school is failing and Anna is involved with the neighbouring Academy, which offers a very different education, and may be eyeing Edward’s establishment for a take-over.

What works here is the estranged father/daughter frame which allows Walker to unpick her father’s enthusiasm for a discipline that has become outdated. Ravenhill succeeds in fully rounding Anna which makes her less than fully sympathetic.

Steed’s character Maureen is also given space to make herself known and we gain a sense of her former career, enthusiasm for a child, illness and difficulty as her relationship with her husband is questioned.

There’s a moment about three-quarters of the way through where Ravenhill throws in a curve ball, which is considered, but never figures again and this might have made the actions of the children protesting outside more believable.

We enjoyed Steed in the recent Pinter at the Pinter season and while it is always a pleasure to see her work, as it is Walker’s, we were left feeling their talents deserved a little more than the script offered.

  • This run is sold out but £12 tickets for Monday performances are released online on the day. Tickets Picture via Facebook courtesy Royal Court
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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