MATTHEW Parker’s production of The House Of Yes is a claustrophobic affair. A pea souper of a ‘horror’ that the audience, hemmed into The Hope Theatre like sardines, cannot escape from. It’s uncomfortable, but utterly rewarding: a fitting finale for Parker who leaves The Hope at the end of the year, having done much to revitalise the theatre’s fortunes.
The play, written by Mary MacLeod in 1990, centres on the Pascal Family – a dysfunctional bunch of individuals that you would not wish to meet in ten lives, let alone one. It’s Thanksgiving, 1983, and Marty (Fergus Leathem) is returning from New York to the family home in Washington. A hurricane is blowing outside. Something far more malevolent lingers in the home’s air.
Awaiting him is mother (Gill King), a formidable presence who breezes through the house as if she is not quite all there. Maybe alcohol, maybe drugs. Maybe neither. She’s unsettling, an individual who has had many lovers, children by different men, and whose husband died suspiciously (did she murder him?). Controlling and manipulative.
Also there to greet Marty is younger brother Anthony (Bart Lambert) – who obviously has major ‘issues’ – and Marty’s twin, Jackie-O (Colette Eaton). Elegant, pill-popping, grandiose (like mother), but mad as a box of frogs.
As soon as Marty steps over the threshold with fiancée Lesly (Kaya Bucholc) in tow, it is obvious there is major trouble at mill. The story unfolds like a Stephen King horror tale.
There’s a history of family incest lingering in the air, resentment at a stranger infiltrating the family home, seething jealousies, and general all-round madness. Jackie-O (obviously not her real name) is off the scale, liking nothing more than to dress up in the same looking clothes as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was wearing when her husband was assassinated in 1963 – complete with blood and brain matter – and then have sex. Oh dear.
Having escaped this family nightmare, Marty is sucked back in again by the proverbial Pascal vacuum cleaner. Lesly, the only one with a whiff of normality about them, is also vacuumed in, ensnared by Anthony.
It’ all creepy, it’s all rather uncomfortable, but somehow all rather enjoyable. The theatre’s compactness helps as does the set (designed by Rachael Ryan) that suggests the Pascals once enjoyed better days (I hope they did). Dark, jaded and intense.
The acting is superb with Lambert excelling as Anthony (all rolling eyes, stares heavenwards and constant twitches).
The House Of Yes works a treat. A potent cocktail that was rapturously devoured by a packed house (October 15). Be prepared to be shocked.
Title image by lhphotoshots