Review: Doonreagan, Jermyn Street Theatre, SW1

Doonreagan. Credit Ludovic Des Cognets

Doonreagan. Credit Ludovic Des Cognets - Credit: Archant

Ann Henning Jocelyn certainly had inspiration at her fingertips when she discovered the literary provenance of her house in Connemara. Importing original furniture that her protagonists may have used contributes an additional verisimilitude but if the script is meagre (an ironic shortcoming in a play about writers) and direction dreary, such ‘authentic touches’ are mere window dressing.

Taking place three years after the suicide of Sylvia Plath, Jocelyn’s play charts the months that her widower Ted Hughes spent in a remote village in western Ireland with their two children and Assia Wevil (his lover before and after Plath’s death), and the baby daughter Assia claimed was his.

Hughes later remembered this rural retreat that provided an escape from the gossip of the London literary world as one of the most productive periods of his career. For Assia, being in the shadow of a genius was more than she could bear; a femme fatale reduced to the second Mrs de Winter to Sylvia’s Rebecca.

Despite the brief running time, Alex Dmitriev’s production has far too many expanses of nothingness featuring recorded farmyard noises and projected Irish scenery.

Daniel Simpson and Flora Montgomery give capable individual performances but the dark passion of this mutually destructive union never ignites.

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The talk about writing poetry in order to ‘move forward’ and achieve ‘closure’ is faintly embarrassing. The clunkiest tropes of bio-drama emerge when Assia recalls her flight from Nazi Germany and Ted responds as if he’s never heard it before.

Jocelyn’s writing is most convincing is conveying Ted’s breathtaking insensitivity towards Assia’s surmounting paranoia, the catalyst of the relationship’s gruesome denouement a few years later. Ultimately, Assia was only able to get one up on Sylvia by committing a deed reminiscent of the most notorious woman in Greek tragedy. A pity that this wisp of a play has nothing of that kind of gravitas.

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