Review – The Inheritance, Young Vic

Thursday 19 April 2018

What can we say about The Inheritance that you might not have already heard?

That the publicity on the tin calls it a “hilarious and profound heartbreaker”.  We are unable to disagree with that even if the contents are in two parts and spread over 7 hours.

By the time we were convinced we wanted to risk such a commitment of time and pander to this Angels In America-style overindulgence we were only able to book for Part 1. All number twos were sold out. Can the appearance of Vanessa Redgrave, who only appears in the second sitting, be that big a USP?

So we had to content ourselves with the musings of those who have claimed that Part 1 is the better part anyway and chose to hang onto that. Churlish as it may sound the fact that it didn’t feature La Redgrave was something of a blessing to us.

But we were overwhelmed. Matthew Lopez‘s play about mainly young New York gay men after the peak of the AIDs crisis is based loosely on EM Forster’s Howards End which given the gay premise, sexual content and orgies that ensue one wonders why Lopez didn’t go the full “Carry On” and call one of his characters Howard.

The main characters here are a couple, Eric Glass (Kyle Soller) and Toby Darling (Andrew Burnap). The former is that rare thing; a kind and decent lawyer. Eric lives in a smart Upper West Side apartment with his partner and husband-to-be, a cocksure and sharp-tongued pain in the arse writer. Toby is about to land a mammoth success with his play that will also make a Broadway star of its lead Adam (Samuel H. Levine), an apparently brilliant actor who also does a good turn as spanner-in-the-works for relationships.

Stephen Daldry‘s elegant production, on a Bob Crowley‘s rising and falling empty stage proves that if you have a compelling story with plenty of humour and brilliant acting you really don’t need much else. Did we really say that? We were so enthralled by Part 1, that seeing Part 2 became such a priority we badgered the box office* for returns at regular intervals. Unsuccessfully as it turned out. Our only option was the indignity of actually queueing for returns. This proved hugely successful securing what could only have been house seats.

What else did we like? All of the British-American cast but especially Soller, Burnap and Levine. The latter flips effortlessly between his two roles as the actor and a rent boy called Leo who will put you off peanut butter for life. All three cope magnificently with a mixture of both light and heavy lifting in the acting stakes. Raised thumbs too for Tony-winning, Broadway veteran, John Benjamin Hickey as an emotionally crippled billionaire and Paul Hilton as an uptight, gangly E. M. Forster who steers us through Part 1 whilst mentoring the young men. Oh and we also admired some beautifully fitted trousers.

An explanation of the Aids epidemic is told with such powerful simplicity you may be choking back tears even before you’ve reached the first of 4 intervals. We cannot talk about the Part 1 climax apart from saying that the logistics of it are hard to fathom and that it is as simple as it is powerful and that a packet of tissues is a handbag essential. For the record we needed triple-ply at this point as we were also still without tickets for Part 2.

You have to hand it to Lopez for keeping the political arguments even-handed, questioning how much progress has actually been made in gay lives and what should be learnt and passed on to future generations. There are a few meta jokes. Lopez twice mocks his play’s own running time and playfully references Vanessa Redgrave by mentioning the cast of the film of Howards End.

In the final hour, Redgrave does eventually turn up and looks rather pleased to be with us. There’s no scenery for her to chew and despite a bit of distracting arm scratching and hitting herself on the head still delivers one of the funniest lines of the evenings. Phil found further amusement during the curtain call as she walked past each of the cast bestowing every actor with a gentle touch of her hand. How very papal.

Threaded amongst all this are some stonking monologues that will no doubt become audition pieces for years to come. Burnam’s Part 2 “solo” is a tour de force. And its shifting tones resist becoming cloying or schmaltzy because it’s so often laugh out loud hilarious and never less than what-happens-next compelling.


* Our thanks to the splendidly helpful woman at the box office when we queued for returns.


3 Responses to “Review – The Inheritance, Young Vic”

  1. JA139 Says:

    I agree, though I throught the end of part 1 was reminiscent of the end of the Kevin Kostner film Field of Dreams, ‘if you build it, they will come’.

  2. Glen Morranjie Says:

    Saw this yesterday, both parts in one day. Hilarious and heartrending. Utterly gripping despite the length.

    BTW don’t sit in the upper circle slips – no view unless you lean forward or move to another seat.

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