The Inheritance / our review
life Changing THEATRE
Jun 7th, 2019
One of the decade's most important masterpieces
Like my feelings post seeing all seven hours of The Inheritance this week, it is difficult to know where to begin with this review of the much anticipated West End transfer.
Most (good) reviews begin by extolling the virtues of a show and then maybe move into a potted summary, but I'm just not sure that would capture the gravity of experiencing what has already been hailed as one of the decade's most important new masterpieces. I shall try though:
At its core, and under the steady hand of director Stephen Daldry, Matthew Lopez's play is about the generation after AIDs and the relationship between two men, Eric Glass the neurotic New York hipster in a rent-controlled apartment and his boyfriend, the errant and ridiculously handsome writer Toby Darling. Eric is open and kind whereas Toby dodges depth and clings to arrogance. It is here that Lopez bases us, allowing a whole world to unfurl around them, hewn in remarkable character studies by Kyle Soller (Eric) and Andrew Burnap (Toby). And just as it's the story of a couple, it becomes the story of a community, it becomes the story of a generation (or two, or three), it becomes the story of a million lost dreams and voices - and then just as deftly, it is the story of Eric and Toby again. Lopez employs charm and intellect to create a true fiction, influenced by the classics of literature it expounds, even employing E.M Forster as a periphery character (played to perfection by Paul Hilton.) But facts are where it shatters you, where the AIDs crisis is recalled, where Republican policy is laid bare, where the simplicity of unadulterated love is impossible to describe or win. Lopez writes like a composer, his symphony moving on apace, yet throwing in references to earlier movements that floor you.
And so back to the bare bones of this review, I should mention something more now about the acting. For a play that has an appearance from Vanessa Redgrave, it's actually quite difficult to choose a favourite performance. I have mentioned the remarkability of Soller and Burnap but there are more, with Samuel H. Levine as the double catalyst Adam and Leo almost terrifying in how incredible he was, handling two characters (that at one point interact) with impressive ease. There is Hilton as Forster and also as Walter, an elder gay, who will break your heart. There's John Benjamin Hickey as Henry, his grieving partner and Hubert Burton and Luke Thallon as their younger counterparts. Without naming them all and writing an essay, let me just tell you they're all amazing and leave it at that.
We've reached the part about set, costume and lighting design and you're unlikely to be shocked by the fact that they too are incredible (it might be time to consult that thesaurus). Bob Crowley's set gently undulates, never too quickly, its rise and fall playing to the beat of the script. In Part Two when it becomes more detailed, it stuns in Jon Clark's lighting. The costumes were to me, one of the most subtle parts, with each character more or less barefoot. When shoes were on it felt like an extension of their state of mind, less grounded etc. Small, yet really effective. All this to Paul Englishby's score, that if I hear again I may burst into to tears.
In conclusion, I could try and fit in a pull quote like 'it is as groundbreaking as Boys in The Band, as worthy, though perhaps not as heavy, as Angels in America, it is the most transcendent thing I've seen in a theatre and it might just be life-changing'. I could say those things and they would be true, but you might not believe me, so I'll just end simply like the show and say go. Go and see The Inheritance. It doesn't matter what or who you identify as, this is one of the decade's most important masterpieces.
View our show pages for more information about The Inheritance, Ethel Barrymore Theater.