From the disjointed raked stage to the blistering arguments, everything is warped in Chalet Lines. The play at the Bush Theatre is framed by the present, shifting episodically backwards through generations of maternal bullying.
Chalet Lines marks Madani Younis's first production as the theatre's new Artistic Director, and it is a bold choice. Lee Mattinson's play is part ferocious comedy, part grim tragedy. Like the furniture that clings to the room's edges, the Walker family is always on the brink of collapse and total destruction. Peppered with startling - and often controversial - one-liners, the story begins at a canter.
All the females insecurities are sown, entrenched and played out within a Butlins chalet in Skegness. Mothers play daughters off against each other, sisters grapple for supremacy: relentless and destructive, puppets to the absent men.
Monica Dolan is excellent as Loretta: the lynchpin through which the families troubles stream out. She is the play's most vulgar character, but also its most tragic. Crippled by a loveless marriage, she continually vents her anger towards her eldest daughter – a tortured recluse beautifully portrayed by Laura Elphinstone.
Unfortunately as the story shifts backwards in time, some of the piece's pace and vigour is lost. The characters drift as the play slightly stutters to its finale, offering a resolution that is rather contrived.
Despite the play's focus on the tragic female insecurities, it is instead the escapist moments of sharp, sniping wit that leave the strongest impression. It is these explosive one-liners and put-downs which characterise Chalet Lines as a challenging, but enjoyable concoction.
Chalet Lines runs at Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Road,
W12 8LJ until 5th May. Visit www.bushtheatre.co.uk/chalet_lines for more information. Tickets are selling well so book soon to avoid disappointment. Londonist saw Chalet Lines after winning their tickets in a pub quiz at the Bush last week.
By Simon Anderson