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Natural Affection - Jermyn Street Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

HOUSE On The Hill Productions is presenting the UK premiere of William Inge’s Natural Affection at Jermyn Street Theatre. A blistering drama by one of the great US playwrights of the late twentieth-century, it runs from July 15 to August 9, 2014.

The world looks awful ugly at times…It’s hard to remember that sometimes it can look beautiful too.

Natural Affection is set in 1962 in a small Chicago apartment where unconventional couple, Sue and Bernie, are awaiting the impending visit of Sue’s delinquent son Donnie with excitement and trepidation.

When Donnie makes an unexpected announcement, tensions between the already strained family relationships grow and competition between the two men threatens to destroy the life that Sue has worked so hard to create.

On Christmas Eve, when the next-door neighbours join the party, tensions escalate resulting in an inescapable and horrific showdown.

Natural Affection flips the American Dream on its head. A complex, dark and anguished study of discordant family life, William Inge’s lost treasure explores the themes of sexual dissatisfaction, loneliness, frustrated small-town dreams, alcoholism and tortured identity.

The work which, in the playwright’s own words, has “been contested, praised, disputed, and criticized”, has never before been seen in the UK. Inspired by the violence Inge was witnessing in the media at the time, Natural Affection retains the power to shock and is as resonant today as it was when it was first produced over fifty year’s ago.

William Inge (1913-1973) is known as “playwright of the American Midwest”. He earned the title of most promising playwright of the 1950 Broadway Season for his play, Come Back, Little Sheba, which was later made into a film by Paramount Pictures starring Shirley Booth and Don Lancaster. In 1953, he won a Pulitzer Prize, The Drama Critics Circle Award, The Outer Circle Award and The Theatre Club Award for his play, Picnic, which also later became a film by Columbia Pictures starring William Holden, Kim Novak and Rosalind Russell.

His other plays include The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and Bus Stop, which achieved international recognition when Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray and Eileen Heckart starred in the Academy Award-winning 1957 movie of the same name.

Natural Affection is directed by Grace Wessels, who will be making her directorial debut at Jermyn Street Theatre. She has a BA in Drama from Bristol University, and is Artistic Director of House on the Hill. Her recent work includes The Alchemist, Dido, Queen of Carthage and King Lear (all at The Rose, Bankside), Taming (Tobacco Factory Theatre) and Much Ado About Nothing (The Alma Tavern).

Natural Affection has set design by Victoria Johnstone, costume design by Emily Stuart and lighting by Steve Lowe.

Tickets: £20, £18 concessions. Earlybird Offer – all tickets £17 if booked before June 21. Special Friends Night Offer – Tickets for Friends Night on Wednesday, July 30 only £16 (only available with a Jermyn Street Theatre Friends Membership). To book, call the box office on 020 7287 2875 or visit www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/.

Times: Monday to Saturday at 7:30pm; Saturday at 3:30pm.

A Revised version of the Off-Broadway hit, Closer Than Ever, runs at Jermyn Street Theatre until June 7, 2014. It will be followed – from June 10 to July 12, 2014 – by the South African Season.