Review by L R Merin
Late Company is one of the most poignant and finely executed plays I’ve seen all year.
This drama was written by Jordan Tannahill (multi-prize-winning Canadian playwright) when he was only twenty-three. “In the wake of a peer’s suicide in Ottawa, in a pique of rage at the political and parental hypocrisies I felt surrounded by at the time.” Directed by Michael Yale (multi-prize-nominee for Best Direction in This Little Life of Mine), this important drama is neatly set in the Shaun-Hastings’ brightly lit dining room. The table formally set and wine poured. (Kudos to Zahra Mansouri for her detailed set design and Nic Farman for his lighting).
Michael and Debora Shaun-Hastings are the parents of teenager, Joel, who has committed suicide a year prior. They have convened at their dinner table with the Dermots: mother, Tamara, and father, Michael—and Curtis, their son and the boy who played a big part in the homophobic bullying that led to Joel’s suicide. A place is set for Joel, and the gaping hole of his absence is the root of the tension that builds throughout the play.
Layer by layer, the narrative unfolds into an articulate investigation of the politics of cyber bullying, homophobia, parental involvement with their children, and blame. It is also a study of grief. The topic sounds heavy (and it is)—but the issues aren’t forced—the themes come naturally from the characterization and emotion. Because of the combination of excellent writing, acting, the intimacy of the setting and theatre itself, I lost great chunks of time, completely involved in the story.
Todd Boyce (Michael Shaun-Hastings) and Lucy Robinson (Debora Shaun-Hastings) are outstanding as Joel’s upper-class parents. Alex Lowe (Bill Dermot) and Lisa Stevenson (Tamara Dermot) are equally superb as the ‘average Joe’ and ‘slightly liberal’ parents of a bully. However, their performances were almost upstaged by David Leopold, who plays Curtis Dermot. His teenage portrayal: an emotional mixture of withdrawal, disengagement, innocence, confusion, anger, and finally, sorrow—was very powerful, and often expressed in a single word or short sentences. There were many wet eyes by the end of the show, and long conversations afterward.
The performance space
Finborough Theatre has been lauded as “the most influential fringe theatre in the world (Time Out),” and “tiny but mighty (The New York Times).” It has even been compared to the National and Royal Court Theatres in terms of the caliber of discovered new writing. I did very much feel like I was at the Royal Court: the theatre was small yet high-class, there were recognizable actors, the writing was smart and politically/culturally relevant, and the acting was top-notch. I will definitely be returning to this theatre, and telling people all about it.