Last Thursday I went to the National Theatre Live broadcast of A Small Family Business, currently playing on the same stage it originally premiered on back in 1987, and starring Nigel Lindsay as Jack McCracken.
After promising to rebuild the furniture business originally set up by his father in law, Jack is prompted by knowledge that someone is selling their designs to the Italians, to clean up the business. However he soon discovers that to do this he must clean up the family behind it as well.
Corruption, familial ties and how far people will go to protect their own are all examined in this play, set originally in the 1980’s when it was written but still managing to highlight things about the modern culture of selfies and celebrity.
With wonderful direction from Adam Penford and sharp performances from the entire cast, Ayckbourn’s script is used to full potential, with light and dark moments played upon in equal measure until you’re not quite sure which is which. When being interviewed by the fabulous Emma Freud in the interval, Penford explained Ayckbourn’s agreement to the play being directed by him stemmed from his promise to not mess with it, and to allow the script, originally written 25 years ago, to be the guide.This is certainly something that comes across and is the key when handling writing as wonderful as that of Alan Ayckbourn.
Nigel Lindsay is sparkling, moving from consternation to blind rage to the reasoned and calm head of a family as easily as a factory owner moving from worker to worker. The extended family create their characters so strongly they’ll stick in your head for days after and Matthew Cottle is so marvellously horrid as Benedict Hough I feel quite ill just thinking about his performance.
This is the third National Theatre broadcast I’ve had the chance to see, and every time they blow me away. Aside from the quality of what I’m watching, the fact that I’m getting the chance to see these plays, despite not living in London, is a wonderful opportunity to throw open the culture that London’s theatre land offers tot he rest of the country and even the world – there are over 100 cinemas in the US which screen National Theatre productions. You also get to see detail that those present in the actual theatre might not get to, making being so far away from the real life National a little easier to bear. And if you miss the live event, lots of cinemas do encore screenings after.
You can buy tickets to see A Small Family Business at the National Theatre here, it’s on until 27th August.
You can also look for your nearest cinema which screens National Theatre Live here.