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A Small Family Business

First Published 9 April 2014, Last Updated 6 August 2014

What’s it all about?

A Small Family Business is the tale of a good man with backbone in a world of moral invertebrates. And a depressing, though often hilarious, look at life in a culture of materialism and the Me generation.

When Jack McCracken takes over at the top of family furniture company Ayres and Graces he has no idea of the level of corruption within his family, who are also his colleagues. When he finds out, he can either try and beat them or… well, you know the rest.

Who’s in it?

Nigel Lindsay’s back at the National Theatre playing Jack with growing levels of consternation, anger and, for a second, channelling his previous West End performance as Shrek.

Matthew Cottle is squirm-inducingly revolting as an insinuating, weaselly, lank-haired private detective. Like almost everyone apart from Jack, he’s out to manipulate all to his advantage, but he’d do it with a jelly-weak handshake and a glance at his toes.

The comedy prizes of the evening go to Niky Wardley as the sister-in-law who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to take it, and the many faces of Gerard Monaco who plays a quintet of Italian brothers.

What should I look out for?

Tim Hatley’s design, which resurrects the finest 80s fashion money should never have been allowed to buy. Hatley has also created a giant doll’s house from whose rooms characters can appear and disappear like Scooby Doo being chased by a masked ghoul.

Who was in the press night crowd?

A trio of Olivier Award nominees taking it easy before Sunday’s glamorous ceremony; Rosalie Craig, Mark Gatiss and Lesley Manville. Silk actor Neil Stuke was in supporting his former Game On co-star Cottle, and NT regular Zoë Wanamaker was there to see her husband Gawn Grainger playing the family’s aging patriarch.

In a nutshell?

Ayckbourn’s despairing indictment of selfishness and materialism will have you giggling like a child watching Crackerjack in 1983.

What’s being said on twitter?

@justahelen Small Family Business at the NT, my first experience of Ayckbourn – it was like Breaking Bad set in Kidderminster.

@Thesilverymoon A Small Family Business at @NationalTheatre is spectacular. So funny but so moving. Beautiful design, acting, and directing. I recommend it.

Will I like it?

Not if you regularly raid the office supplies cupboard, no. But if you fancy a little farce mixed with your social commentary, are a sucker for fashion crimes or are intrigued by one of the creepiest performances currently on the London stage – seriously, Matthew Cottle is this far away from a David Lynch creation – then head to the National.

A Small Family Business runs at the National Theatre until 27 August. You can book tickets through us.

If you can’t get to the NT to see the show, it will be broadcast live to more than 500 UK cinemas on 12 June as part of NT Live.


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