WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE?: Hampstead Theatre RUN TIME: 110 minutes (no interval)
WHEN?: 25/1, press night 31/1, booking to 2/3/19
Author Martyna Majok is a Polish-American playwright familiar with homelessness, grief and working multiple jobs to pay her way and weaves those subjects seamlessly together here in her play which won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
- Read on for reasons including why Hampstead Theatre is becoming the home of cutting edge new writing
Cost of Living is the story of intersecting lives and focuses on 2 relationships. We first meet Eddie and Ani, an ex-truck driver and his wife who is quadriplegic. Their scenes are alternated with John, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, and his carer Jess.
The original production premiered at the Manhattan Theatre Club and starred the fiery Katy Sullivan as Ani, who appears here, and was nominated for 2 awards for her performance.
The play begins when we meet Eddie, the always engaging Adrian Lester (pictured left above and currently starring in film Mary Queen Of Scots) in a bar during a soliloquy in which we discover the inventive reason why he is there but also learn how much he is grieving yet his thoughts are delivered with much humour and warmth which lights the way he tackles the impossible situation he faces.
There are flashback scenes featuring Eddie and Ani and we learn that, despite her surgery and the complexity of their relationship, there is a real tenderness between the couple despite the comical bitterness that is never far from the surface.
Director Edward Hall brings a great deal from his talented cast and Emily Barber as Jess and Jack Hunter as John convey the sense of awkwardness that makes a later misunderstanding easily understood by the audience.
Cost Of Living’s subject matter seems a world away from the rarefied air of this boutique north London venue but its staging gives a sense of how willing it is to take on difficult but very real themes that will resonate with those of us who read the papers and have a sense of the world outside this NW3 location.
We’re thrilled that 1 of our Best New Plays of 2018 The Phlebotomist is transferring from Downstairs at this venue to the main stage in this venue in March and that commitment to new writing is evident in the staging of this production.
Life is tough for so many people and theatre that reflects that and infuses the heartache with some humour makes the message that there must be a better way of life than this so much easier to watch.