Laura Wade’s meticulously observed play on the mechanics of dealing with death within a small but fashionably dysfunctional family has taken seven years too long to arrive in the north west. Its welcome regional premiere performance is directed robustly by Abigail Anderson. Though repetitive at times it doesn’t avoid the heart-searching of a family faced with death nor the humour arising from everyday problems, even as family members come to terms with the loss of their mother to cancer. Thomasin Marshall has set the play in a striking composite of living-room and woodland burial sites.
Augustina Seymour, Philip Rham, Joannah Tincey and Maggie Tagney (back) in Colder Than Here at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick Photo: Keith Pattison
Achieving the necessary blend of rich comedy in the early scenes and despairing heartbreak as the play closes is a talented cast of four. Maggie Tagney plays Myra, the dying mother, with a blazing intensity as she realises she’s organised her family for too long and must now show them how to lose her. This is a strikingly judged performance. As is that of Philip Rham, as her husband, Alec, a man who cannot express easily the emotions he feels. Completing the family are two daughters, Jenna and Harriet. As the troubled and childlike Jenna, Augustina Seymour gives a profound performance, particularly impressive as she conveys the character’s approaching maturity - and Joannah Tincey shows Harriet’s vulnerability beneath her veneer of competence.
An enthralling evening - had the final scene been the one in which husband and wife sit together on the family sofa entwined in companionable silence this would have been a perfect one.