The Legacy – Hope Theatre

the-legacy-HOPE-production-020Women have now had the vote for almost 100 years, yet still we fight an endless battle against inequality, chauvinism and society. For are we not still seen as creatures bound ultimately for motherhood? Flaunting ourselves to a world still dominated by men we are judged if we decide to have a career over a family and even by what we choose to wear.

For many of us our wardrobe choices are our quiet protest against society’s expectation, but there are others who take a more serious stand and make a strong statement through their actions.

The Legacy, the debut play from author Angela Clarke, is inspired by the mattress protest of Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz as she campaigned against rape and the thousands of women suffering in silence.

‘Perfect’ couple Rebecca (Lucinda Westcar) and Adam (Jim Mannering) live conveniently within the desirable commuter belt in Harpenden (just 2 minutes from the station in fact), where they eat organic vegetables, send their children to private schools and agonise over whether Elephant’s Breath or Dead Salmon is the best Farrow & Ball shade for the furniture. They have their bubble and they’re happy inside it.

When Rebecca’s estranged sister Esther (Claira Watson Parr) returns for the reading of their father’s will, she threatens to turn their seemingly idyllic life upside-down. But will we find out what happened to make her disappear more than a decade before?

Plays with very few characters are often very intense as the audience have no choice but to focus on each actor’s body language and dialogue, especially in the close proximity of a small theatre. This is no bad thing and I for one prefer a play that makes me feel awkward, as though I’m intruding into these characters’ lives.

In The Legacy however, you feel less guilty because not one of the three characters is likeable, yet you are drawn to their story and – more importantly – your opinion of them changes as the piece develops.

The script is excellent – well-observed and current, managing to be both humorous and poignant, with just a few occasions where it slips into slight Austen territory.

The actors themselves are very believable, with Mannering’s portrayal of Adam particularly strong – he’s a detestable person, with no respect for his wife at all. Perhaps one disadvantage of this is that he gives away one of the piece’s twist a bit too soon – the audience can’t help but be suspicious. Westcar and Watson Parr gel well together as siblings, as the audience falls into the trap of assuming the sensible, married sister is the older one.

It’s no mean feat to tackle such a current political issue, but Clarke manages to drive her point home, through a clever, thought-provoking script that focuses on normal characters in an entirely relatable situation.

A fantastic debut piece.

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes

The Legacy is playing at the Hope Theatre until 13 June 2015. Click here for more information and to book tickets