The House They Grew Up In review at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester – ‘subtle and surprising’
Deborah Bruce’s The House They Grew Up In is a subtle and surprising play that turns from the bleakest of comedies into a tender story of hope.
Condemning the glib ease with which gentrification leave the most vulnerable behind, Bruce’s play is about both the dangers and the delights of letting “outside people inside”. It’s powered by the kind of dialogue you could quote for weeks.
In Jeremy Herrin’s uncomfortable yet engrossing production for Headlong, the living room of a Victorian London terrace protrudes like an archaeological cross-section which designer Max Jones has layered with hoarded belongings.
Amateur art historian Peppy and her autistic brother Daniel have lived here all their lives – perhaps longer, Peppy thinks. But the radio is dead, the tap has slowed to a trickle, and the state of the hedge is raising eyebrows.
Next door, eight-year-old Ben sits out his parent’s divorce in a sleek modern kitchen barred like a prison cell. He seeks friendship from his reclusive neighbours, sparking a paedophile scare. But this isn’t allowed to dominate the plot. Daniel returns from his police interview sweetly buoyed by contact with the outside world. He has gained a support worker, a new notebook, and a de-cluttered understanding of his and his sister’s co-dependency.
Daniel Ryan is fantastic in the role of the brother and though Samantha Spiro has to work harder to maintain Peppy’s fever pitch of denial and her rictus grimace of positivity, together they present a memorable portrait of two siblings marooned by loss and saved by simple human kindness.