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Amy's View - Sewell Barn Theatre (01.03.2024)

Amy's View is a four-act play, starting in 1979 and ending in 1995, which looks at both the relationship between mother and daughter, and also the relationship between theatre and the younger generation apparently more concerned with TV and film.

In the first act, Amy has brought boyfriend, Dominic, to meet her mother, Esme. Esme is an old school West End actress, whose star appears to be on the wane. Dominic, as a young critic and journalist, insists that theatre is a dying art form, as his generation simply aren't excited by it.

It's an argument that continues throughout the play, with Esme's declining career paralleled by Dominic's rise as a media producer and TV star.

The initially heartwarming relationship between mother and daughter becomes strained as the divisive Dominic drives a wedge between them over the years.

There are of course some revelations and major life events that occur throughout the play which keep things interesting (I won't spoil them for you), but I came away from the performance not quite sure what writer David Hare was trying to convey or what he wants us to feel about the characters.

For instance, the action itself is largely set against the backdrop of the Lloyds of London financial crisis, with the subject not really touched upon in enough depth to make any kind of point or impact. Maybe it speaks of my age/ignorance, but the crisis passed me by, and there wasn't enough made of it in the script for it to feel relevant to modern audiences.

As far as the characters go, Amy insists that Dominic has redeeming qualities, but this feels difficult to swallow when early on we see him react rather aggressively towards her, and then much of his dialogue is devoted to quite rudely and bullishly haranguing Esme about the art form she's built her career on.

I think we're supposed to feel that Dominic is the victim of artistic snobbery initially, but that doesn't come across particularly clearly. Whether that was to do with the script or the performance, it was difficult to tell. There was also some rather significant loose ends left untied with regards to Amy and neighbour/Lloyds agent Frank.

However, while I wasn't entirely enamoured by the script, the production was lifted by some excellent performances. Mel Sessions as Esme, and Hollie Harrington as Amy, were at their finest in the third Act, with Hollie's emotionally charged tirade against her frustratingly naive mother providing a real tearjerking/goosebump moment. But it wasn't just big emotions that made their performances special - there was also a tender, closeness between them in the first Act that's difficult to make believable on-stage, and they pulled it off superbly.

Though his was a confident, commanding turn as Dominic, I felt Joe Seeney could have benefited from a little more subtlety in his performance early on. Having been quite aggressive from the start, I felt he left himself nowhere to go later in the play, and by the time he sought redemption from Esme in the fourth Act, I couldn't side with his character at all.

There was great support from Kevin Oelrichs as neighbour Frank, who turns out not to be as kindly as he seems, plus Wesley Burgess as the earnest young actor keen to learn from the veteran Esme.

Despite my reservations about the play itself, it is a very enjoyable watch, and with great performances coupled with the understated opulence of the set design, it's absolutely worth a watch. Amy's View continues until 9 March at The Sewell Barn.


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