Round And Round The Garden: Albion Digs Up The Brexit Debate At Almeida Theatre
In a country grappling with its own sense of national identity, Mike Bartlett’s Albion centres familial dispute along generational and political divides. This earth has been well ploughed since the play’s debut in 2017, but whether or not the soil is still fertile or better left fallow is another matter.
Audrey Walters (Victoria Hamilton) is all but a walking Tory manifesto: founder of a ‘White Company’ type brand and self-made businesswoman; also mother of a fallen soldier and to daughter Zara (Daisy Edgar-Jones). Audrey’s made it her mission to restore the original ‘quintessential English garden’ of a country house, analogous of an almost obsessive patriotic nostalgia. Hamilton is superb and manages to make the loathsome Audrey sympathetic.
Bartlett seems more comfortable channeling the mindset and register of the middle classes than those from lower socioeconomic groups or queer people (the doddery housekeeper and gardener, the hard-working Polish cleaner). In particular, the younger characters of Zara and Gabriel (Donal Finn) are too wide-eyed and earnest — far from the reality of the broken, cynical millennial spirit. His attempts to portray these voices feels forced and a little tropey, even patronising.
Inconsistencies and plotholes may be written off either as intentional dissonance (if we’re being kind) or arrogant sloppiness (if we’re not). Miriam Buether’s living garden set is both beautiful and beautifully lit by Neil Austin.
Albion tries to follow the bone structure of a Chekhov but lacks the same finesse. Ultimately it’s more Doctor Foster than Uncle Vanya.
Albion, Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, N1 1TA. Tickets £10-£42.50, until February 2020.
Last Updated 06 February 2020