In Celebration

Published April 17, 2008

Most of the hype around this production was inevitably about the stage debut of Hollywood superstar Orlando Bloom, but when you get past the star-studded draw of the cast, David Storey's family drama hides a centre of seething anger and burning resentment. Matthew Amer attended the first night of In Celebration at the Duke of York's.

A 40th wedding anniversary should be a happy affair, a celebration of a life spent together and a family's shared experiences. But all families have their issues, and inevitably if you put people together for too long, conflicts arise. The issues at the heart of In Celebration, though, run deeper than petty squabbling.

Of the three brothers that return to their northern, mining-town home to mark the happy day, Orlando Bloom's Steven is a shell of a man, for the most part silent and occasionally weeping into his sleeves. Gareth Farr's Colin is a successful factory middle-manager who does not have a meaningful relationship, and Paul Hilton's Andrew has an antagonistic sarcasm that erupts into near-violent anger.

The problems, of course, are caused by the parents, whose mistake seems to have been to try and educate their children and give them better lives. The result has left their offspring lost in the class system, desperately looking for their place in society. Steven, the boy genius, has even been trying and failing to write a book about modern society; it is hard to write about something you don’t understand.

Bloom, on whom all eyes were surely fixed, fades into the ensemble faster than you can say 'Lord Of The Rings trilogy', becoming part of the furniture in Lez Brotherston's set – a cross-section of a family home with a dark, forboding upper level – when not active in a scene.

Hilton's demonstrative, pacing Andrew is the driving force behind the production, his biting comments and buried rage pushing the tension to the fore. Tim Healy as the father, 50 years a coal miner and unable to give up work, coughs, splutters and tells tales until his world, like an unsafe mine shaft, comes crashing down around him. .

MA