Isaac Came Home From the Mountain – 4 Stars

Mountain

Isaac Came Home From the Mountain

Theatre503

Reviewed – 14th May 2018

★★★★

“a powerful perception of virulent masculinity in a desolate society”

 

The parable underlying Phil Ormrod’s story of ‘Isaac Came Home From The Mountain’ spotlights the balance of love, acceptance, pride and rejection in male relationships, often clouded by expectations and rarely voiced. Bobby, out of school, needs to find work to appease and impress his father. When he succeeds and his father fails to show the recognition he hopes for, he looks for approval elsewhere and, in his desperation, makes a terrible mistake.

The four actors, perfectly cast, produce a powerful perception of virulent masculinity in a desolate society. Ormrod’s tightly-written script, with its touches of humour, give depth and intrigue to the characters; the rapports ebb and flow as they search for their places in each other’s lives. Charles Furness’ Bobby shields his sensitivity with vulnerable toughness. Keen to do the right thing, but crushed by a grim future, he is angry and dismissive. Only once does he let go in a piercing moment of realisation. His father, John (Guy Porritt), tries to get him to face his responsibilities and earn a living. Torn between his own duties at work and home, he finally yields, as Abraham saved Isaac from sacrifice, and stands by his son. Ian Burfield as Mike, prepared to take Bobby on, has a bullying turn of temper, frightening and imposing in size and sonority. In a game of intimidation and authority, he plays with the insecurities of Bobby and his own son, Chris, portrayed by Kenny Fullwood. He, in turn, defends his territory when Bobby comes looking for work and smoulders with jealousy when his father favours the newcomer.

The harsh sense of raw emotions is impacted by the wonderfully arresting set design by Eleanor Bull, from its forceful main structure to the carefully detailed dust and blades of grass. Ali Hunter’s stunning lighting illuminates the changes of time, place and atmosphere as well as creating dramatic special effects. The sound (Benjamin Grant) interacts with the lighting, marking the different scenes with subtle grittiness.

This is a simple narrative given weight by skilled writing. Carla Kingham shapes the play with varied moods and pace, using every possibility of the set to generate space, action and movement. On the small stage the tension builds and we feel a shadow of discomfort, reflecting the anguish experienced, in particular, by young men in a ruthless world. The evocative creativity of the art design and acutely passionate performances combine for a moving, bitter-sweet evening of theatre.

 

Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Helen Murray

 

 

Isaac Came Home From the Mountain

Theatre503 until 2nd June

 

 

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