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Lloyd George Knew My Father

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
3 stars
There’s something odd at the heart of William Douglas Home’s 1972 play, revived here in this Theatre Royal Bath touring production by director Richard Digby Day. At first glance, the uneasy drawing-room politesse between an elderly pair of aristocrats, their Tory MP son and his wife alongside their daughter and her cub reporter boyfriend suggests one more piece of establishment fluff. Look closer, though, to the loose-knit plot about a by-pass being built next to the family’s old pile, and there’s something going on about a country’s old values being swept aside in the face of a fast-moving modern world.

Set in the early 1960s, the stand taken by Helen Ryan’s Lady Boothroyd, who decrees to kill herself if the by-pass goes ahead, may imply the sort of radicalism more often seen in the House of Lords than the line-toeing Commons which her son Hubert occupies. Especially as she and her stuck-in-the-past husband, played by Edward Fox, have more in common with the younger set. In actual fact, this martyr to the cause is simply slapping a symbolic preservation order on things and, ultimately more interested in making a splash on Panorama, sowing the seeds of the heritage industry.

Played largely for laughs, Digby Day’s production is itself as safe as houses, and one longs for something more adventurous to point up this microcosm of a nation at odds with itself beyond a couple of poorly caricatured young people. In the end, though, both Lady Boothroyd and the play fudge the issue. The bulldozers may be rolling in, but in her world at least, the status quo has been preserved.

The Herald, February 19th 2009

ends

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