Following an acclaimed run at the Young Vic, Matthew Lopez’s two-part epic, The Inheritance, is entertaining a new, much larger audience at the Noel Coward Theatre.
Set a generation after the peak of the AIDS crisis, Matthew Lopez’s, The Inheritance explores profound themes through the turbulent and often comical experiences of a group of young, privileged New Yorkers. The format of the play switches between reflective monologues and an engaging, fast paced narrative all interwoven with a writing masterclass from E.M Forster, expertly brought to life by Paul Hilton.
Directed by Stephen Daldry, the play explores the concept of inheritance by highlighting the legacy and freedoms gifted to the gay community by previous generations, asking a modern gay audience to consider their responsibility to protect the legacy of those who have come before.
Though largely based around the troubled relationship between the charming and thoughtful Eric Glass (Kyle Soller) and troubled writer, Toby Darling (Andrew Burnap), the presence of billionaire, Henry Wilcox (John Benjamin Hickey) serves as a catalyst for a discussion of the role activism has played in the progress made by the gay community. Henry challenges the characters by extolling the virtues of conservatism which makes for uncomfortable viewing and results in a rather crude comparison between Trump and the HIV virus.
Though brief, Vanessa Redgrave’s appearance is filled with intensity and fragility. Redgrave fully captivates the entire audience providing one of the highlights of the entire play.
In the more open space of the Young Vic, Bob Crowley’s staging blurred the lines between the audience and the stage providing a more inclusive atmosphere. However, in a traditional theatre set-up, the distinction between audience and stage is more clearly defined. The simple design however, remains powerful as a bare-foot ensemble are deployed around a simple raised platform. Though impressive visuals are few and far between, when they arrive, the impact is great.
Running at almost seven hours long in total, the production is somewhat of a theatrical marathon, and yet every moment is powerful and enthralling. Filled with laughs, love and loss, The Inheritance is a heart-warming exploration of what it means to be gay in the twenty-first century and the debt we owe to the generations past in the face of new opposition and challenges within the gay community.
Reviewed by Ben McDonald
Photo: Marc Brenner