National Theatre: Lyttelton
The Voysey Inheritance
Reviewed by Georgina Brown, Mail on Sunday, 30th April 2006
Picture the scene: your old pater suddenly confesses that he, just like his pa before him, has been speculating with his clients' funds.
He's paid their interest without fail, so they're none the wiser, so where's the harm?
But what should you, as his trusted, dutiful son and as a trusted, dutiful solicitor to the same clients, do? Whistle up the nearest policeman and shop your fraudulent father or carry on the lie?
And what, having failed to resolve that prickly problem, do you do if pater drops dead, leaving you to clean up the mess or not?
The wealth that you and your family enjoy is effectively stolen money. So what next?
This is the dilemma Harley Granville Barker puts before Edward Voysey and us in his wonderfully rich drama The Voysey Inheritance.
Premiered 100 years ago at the Royal Court, before Robert Maxwell had even been thought of, it is nevertheless a thoroughly modern, compelling story of greed, corruption and, most important perhaps, of fathers and sons, a polluted inheritance and the terrible legacy of guilt.
Julian Glover's self-satisfied Voysey will be more intimidating when he's in better command of his words, but he tells the snivelling Edward: 'I've done what I had to do . . . taken up my cross.' Now he expects his son to be similarly Christ-like in his duty.
Edward may have inherited his father's firm, but not his duplicity.
So begins his emergence ( splendidly charted by Dominic West) from spineless goody-goody to an impressive figure with moral backbone; a worthy husband of Nancy Carroll's beautiful, clever Alice.
Peter Gill's production superbly recreates Barker's penetrating portrait of Edwardian England, where the upper-middle classes live pampered lives, the men running the show over port and cigars, the women waiting in the wings.
Bursting with fine performances Andrew Woodall's blustering Army buffoon, Doreen Mantle's stone deaf and morally blind Mrs Voysey, John Nettleton's wily beneficiary of Voysey's scam this is a hugely satisfying play which has much to say about life today.
Copyright Associated Newspapers Ltd. Apr 30, 2006
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