Last of the Haussmans

DIRECTOR: Howard Davies

CAST: Julie Walters, Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory, Matthew Marsh, Taron Egerton, Isabella Laughland


RUNNING TIME: 165 minutes

RATING: ****

Funny in parts, entertaining throughout and with a bit of pathos thrown in for good measure, this play from the National Theatre is a moving portrait of a family who don’t think of themselves as one.

Summoned home to Dartmouth by their hippy mother, Libby (McCrory) and Nick (Kinnear) go through a bout of “do you remember” while trying very hard to forget, in this NT Live play.

This debut by first-time playwright Stephen Beresford lured Julie Walters back to the London stage after a 12-year absence, and it gives the actress a very meaty role.

She is Judy, the mother who left her two kids with her parents while she went off to live in an ashram in India.

While she acknowledges that she’s made mistakes, she owns those mistakes.

Walters is vibrant, creating a character who lives with her heart on her sleeve, has no inhibitions, and calls herself an anarchist.

Libby has a fraught relationship with her own daughter, Summer (Laughland), who has been packed off to get to know her father in France. Then there’s the doctor who loves coming over to play air guitar and the pool boy who has a thing for Libby. Oh, and her junkie brother, Nick.

The play is about the ’60s hippy generation, how they thought they could change the world and how they viewed the future, but above all, it is about families – with the underlying resentment between the children and their mother coming to the fore.

Though set in Dartmouth, the interplay between the characters is relatable to anyone.

Yet, luckily for them – and for the audience, as it would be an extremely savage show otherwise – the family reach an understanding.

The dialogue is that of people who have known each other for years, but you quickly pick up on the tensions and power lines between the characters.

All of the action takes place on a brilliant set – the bottom storey of a house – built to revolve so that as the characters move from room to room, the set turns to show us a wonderfully cluttered home, filled with bits of more than 30 years of life lived all over the world.

Faded pictures on the wall and the now muted colours, all testimony to a very colourful life, led a long time ago in a place very far removed from England.

• Last of the Haussmans will be screened at Ster Kinekor’s Cinema Nouveau on Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday only.