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Barrow Hill, Finborough Theatre

Jane Wainwright
Directed by Abbey Wright

Pros: Short, sharp and packs a modest punch.

Cons: A little bit slow and not quite engaging enough to deliver a real emotional hammer-blow.

Our Verdict: Perhaps not the best from the Finborough, but it’s still a slick and well-presented show which says a lot!

Courtesy of the Finborough Theatre

The Finborough is fast becoming one of my top London theatres. These days I’m just as excited to visit this friendly wine bar theatre as I am to visit the National because it consistently delivers good quality productions. Of course there are variations; their latest production of Barrow Hill for example is not their best, but it is still fundamentally a good show which says a lot in itself!

Barrow Hill is a play about competing loyalties to the past, the present and the future. 86-year old Kath is trying to save her beloved chapel, thick with memories of her late husband and her past, from being demolished to make way for new flats. Her son Graham, desperately seeking work for his construction company to put food on the table for his family, is the man responsible for the project. It’s the age-old clash of emotional ties; family vs the individual, the past vs the future, and the search for stability in a fast moving world. It sounds like it should deliver a real emotional body blow to the audience, but whilst Abbey Wright’s production does pack a punch, it didn’t quite have the huge impact that I hoped it would.

Let’s start with the pros. As always at the Finborough the production values were excellent. It’s another slick and professional show with good acting and a simple yet stylish set designed by Natalie Moggridge. To be honest this stuff does go a long way to creating a positive all-round experience. I didn’t feel bored at any point, I was comfortable and engaged for most of it, and overall it was a great evening at the theatre which is really the most important thing for paying ticket holders!

There were also some great performances from the cast; the star of the show for me was Janet Henfrey as Kath herself. Henfrey delivers an outstanding performance as one of those stiff-upper lipped senior citizens. Punchy and up-for-a-fight over her chapel’s future, but ultimately a caring mother to Graham, it was a great performance, and her stoic determination made it much harder to watch her fail to hold back the emotions towards the end of the play. Strong supporting performances also came from Cath Whitefield as Graham’s daughter, who is again balancing loyalty to her father with individual desires to change the course of her life.

Despite all these positives however, I felt that the play was overall a little slow, and in places I found my disbelief creeping back in. Charlie Roe’s performance was a mixed bag; in places he was great as the struggling man-in-the-middle, but in others I felt his slow, overly deliberate midlands drawl caused the pace to drop slightly. Perhaps more importantly, I wasn’t able to really connect with the characters, which is the key for plays trying to bring a tear to the eyes of its audience members. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what prevented me from doing so – at around 70 minutes, perhaps the play was too short for the characters to be developed enough – but there was something missing.

So where does that leave us? It’s another solid show from within the walls of this West London theatrical paradise, but it left me slightly underwhelmed as I headed back down to the wine bar. I would still recommend it, because even the slightly less impressive shows from the Finborough are still good! But Barrow Hill is missing the spark that would make it great.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the section below!

Barrow Hill runs at the Finborough Theatre until 4th September 2012.
Box Office: 0844 847 1652 or book online at http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2012/barrow-hill.php

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