Loss conjures some of the darkest of human emotions: grief, anger, spite, guilt... Playwright Jordan Tannahill explores it all in his emotional blast of a play, Late Company.
Transferring from the Finborough Theatre with its original cast of five, the play takes place in the dining room of the Shaun-Hastings. Wife Debora makes anxious adjustments to the dinner table as she, with politician husband Michael, await the arrival of their guests, the Dermots. This is part of their so-called 'healing process', as both families come to terms with the passing of Debora and Michael's son Joel, who took his own life after being bullied at the hands of Curtis Dermot.
The play begins with your regular, awkward dinner party niceties, but, unlike some recent dining room dramas, this is really engaging dialogue. It's aided by the intimate space of Trafalgar Studios that draws you into the scene. But given one foul swoop, Tannahill lifts the rug and turns on the tension.
As the families share memories of Joel and and letters of their pain and regret, the play explodes into life. Debora is clearly holding this dinner party only to spout her anger - and who could blame her? Her son, bullied for expressing his sexuality, was driven to death by a boy sat at her dinner table. Is he to blame? Are his parents? In the end, it doesn't matter. The closure Debora is looking for doesn't exist. As Curtis' dad Bill says, "you deal with grief alone for the rest of your life".
What is striking it that Tannahill, who wrote the play when he was 23, can write dialogue for these middle-ages characters so naturally. It's dramatic, but believable. Some lines however - especially when discussing accepting the sexuality of adolescents - are a bit in your face, even if they start a valid conversation about modern attitudes on the subject.
There are solid performances all round. Throughout the 75 minutes, Lucy Robinson portrays the fragile Debora explosively, and I dare anyone not to be moved by the reading of her letter to the boy who bullied her son to death.
Michael Yale’s direction keeps the characters swirling round the table, and really pulls you in to this Toronto dining room. It’s a powerful play with tapping in to some o the toughest human emotions, and it really is a play you should see.
Late Company Tickets are available now.