REVIEW: The House They Grew Up In

Daniel Ryan and Samantha Spiro shine in the world premiere of The House They Grew Up In, a CFT co-operation with Headlong theatre company. Image contributed.
Daniel Ryan and Samantha Spiro shine in the world premiere of The House They Grew Up In, a CFT co-operation with Headlong theatre company. Image contributed.

Minerva Theatre, until August 5.

Minerva Threare, until August 5.

Superbly acted, dark and moving, Deborah Bruce’s script is uncomfortable viewing, and excellent theatre.

Set in the home of two siblings who have lived together their whole lives, The House They Grew Up In follows what happens when brother and sister pair Peppy and Daniel have their world turned inside out by the child next door.

It’s the dynamic performances from Peppy (Samantha Spiro) and Daniel (Daniel Ryan) that make this play worth watching.

The siblings are recluses, dependant on one another and surrounded by mounds of claustrophobic clutter and memories.

Then eight-year-old Ben (Rudi Millard) turns up one day when his home begins to get difficult.

To everybody outside the house, baring the audience, everything and everyone inside the house begins to be judged very differently as a result.

As Ben disrupts their lives, Peppy and Daniel have to choose whether being on the outside is a good thing.

Peppy’s spin of seemingly inane dialogue holds the slow-moving first half, some gorgeously self-conscious lines stitched into the script are delivered without a hint of irony.

Balancing her chatter is Daniel, who fastidiously writes down the truth in his diary to satisfy the need for order in his autistic mind.

Between them, the incredibly sustained characterisation draws you in without you even noticing into an oddly engrossing portrait of daily life.

By the time the outside world closes in on what remains of the family, we’re firmly on their side, however confusing that side might be, and we’re critical of how they’re treated.

As Ben says, Daniel may say some funny things but he’s not scary if you know him.

There are a few implausible moments in the plot, and the stunning work by Spiro and Ryan outshines almost anyone else (Millard’s Ben is wonderful) but the story flows well and the stage design has some truely lovely touches.

The ending is astonishingly well done. Tensions come to a head, the story hurtles to a climax and characters are laid bare in some of the play’s best scenes.

It’s dark, there’s no room for emotional let up and it’s too raw to feel like a comedy even with plenty of lighter touches, but it’s a strong, moving and convincing portrait.

Not a relaxing evening, but one to remember.