HIR at the Park Theatre
“Felicity Huffman making her UK stage debut is mesmeric as Paige”
HIR pronounced “here” is a story about place, and in Pulitzer and Tony-nominee Taylor Mac’s darkly absurdist play it is about home, in this shockingly good production. The brilliant cast is led by the multi award winning American actress Felicity Huffman.
The prodigal son, Isaac (Steffan Cennydd) returns home from the Afghan war. Home is the place that Isaac couldn’t wait to leave when he joined the marines. Home is the place he sent dead soldiers back to in a box. Home is the place he dreamt about, and home is the place he is desperate to return to. But everything about his home is different.
Not him, not her, but hir is the preferred gender pronoun of his teenage younger sister, Max (Thalía Dudek), who is no longer his sister but his transgender / genderqueer sibling. His father (Simon Startin) is no longer his abusive father, but a dribbling stroke victim in a nightie, with a clown face and neon pink wig. And his mother (Huffman), who calls Isaac simply I, has become a not so batty, woke and merciless woman. Their quickfire chat and actions in this claustrophobic home knows no bounds as they try to look to a future.
Felicity Huffman making her UK stage debut is mesmeric as Paige from the moment the lights go up on their filthy, messy, shabby box of a house, menacingly built over landfill. Making her husband “shut the door” is torturous, made hilarious by the amount of times Huffman can make those three words sound so different. Paige’s deep set and sadistic revenge cruelty on her now pathetic husband is at times monstrous; as Huffman sprays him with a water bottle, like he is a disobedient dog, but still you laugh – to begin with. Huffman’s timing is faultless.
“more than yet another play about a dysfunctional family”
The cast play their roles with absolute conviction as: toxic masculinity, identity, mental illness, PTSD, raging hormones, disability, gender fluidity, emasculation, abuse and drugs, somehow all get their moment without being preachy in this firecracker four hander.
Thalía Dudek as the titular Hir is all testosterone and bravado, as hir convincingly proves that the Mona Lisa is transgender. Dudek also shows the character’s vulnerability and desperation to have hir brother’s traditionally masculine approval, again as the audience laughs – to begin with.
Masterfully directed by Steven Kunis who brings Hir to life, making it more than yet another play about a dysfunctional family. Hir might not quite have the shock value regarding identity, that Taylor Mac intended, when it first opened nearly a decade ago, but it still packs a punch. Set and costume designer Ceci Calf creates an extraordinary theatrical moment at the end of act one as the set closes ranks, as the 1960s pop song Little Boxes plays. And let’s not forget the hard working stage management team, who have a massive change to handle during the interval.
There’s no place like home but in Hir everything and everyone is broken.
HIR at the Park Theatre
Reviewed on 21st February 2024
by Debbie Rich
Photography by Pamela Raith
Previously reviewed at this venue: