Reviewed – 24th August 2017
“Late Company is a hard-hitting, gripping depiction of issues that are ever-present in modern society”
In the intimate space of Trafalgar Studios 2, Late Company opens with married couple, Debora and Michael Shaun-Hastings, making the final preparations in their dining room for what appears to be a dinner party, although the audience is unsure of the exact occasion. Following the arrival of Bill and Tamara Dermot and their teenage son, Curtis, it becomes clear that the Shaun-Hastings’ son, Joel, committed suicide following homophobic torment from his peers, including Curtis. This gathering is not your average dinner party, but an awkward chance for reconciliation and closure.
The discomfort of the situation is made clear from the start, with all actors playing this well, most notably Lisa Stevenson as Tamara Dermot, whose agitated, sometimes comedic, attempts at small talk are cut short when Lucy Robinson as Debora Shaun-Hastings exclaims “Let’s just start!”. What follows is the sharing of memories of Joel and his achievements. Michael shows off medals and certificates won by his son, whereas Debora presents, with fondness, “photos that capture him”- a painful, yet beautiful reflection of a mother’s love. The piece escalates dramatically from here, with emotion-fuelled outbursts and revelations about Joel and the part the internet and social media had to play in his ordeal.
Zahra Mansouri’s set is naturalistic and adds to the believability of the piece, as does her costume design. This, along with the intimacy of the space, allows you to be pulled in to the action and feel as though you are in the dining room with the two families.
Robinson portrays grieving mother Debora’s raw emotion excellently and her delivery of a letter written to Curtis, displaying her heartbreak, is a standout performance of the production. David Leopold’s Curtis captures teenage awkwardness extremely well. Initially reluctant to take part in the discussions and keeping largely quiet, he begins to show remorse as the production progresses, culminating in a very effective closing sequence.
Director Michael Yale’s production is exceptionally well acted and the tension created from the themes of cyber- bullying, suicide and parental responsibility is, at times, broken by welcomed comic one-liners. Late Company is a hard-hitting, gripping depiction of issues that are ever-present in modern society and is greatly thought-provoking.
Reviewed by Emily K Neal
Photography by Alastair Muir
is at Trafalgar Studios until 16th September