9 March 2012 4:08 PM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Menier Chocolate Factory, London

Mike Leigh has often been accused of condescension towards his characters. Lindsay Posner's perceptive revival of this 1977 landmark reminds us that we are not being invited, unless we so choose, to mock the social aspirations of Leigh's Essex quintet: in reality, the play is a Strindbergian study of marital hell and of a joyless materialism that has since become the defining characteristic of British life.

There are no grotesques in Posner's production: simply a group of people whose lives are steeped in rancour and sadness. Beverly taunts and sexually humiliates her estate-agent husband, Laurence, while he patronises her for her impracticality and presumed lack of taste in liking Demis Roussos. Meanwhile Tony, the surly ex-footballer whom Beverly sets out to seduce, behaves with thuggish violence towards a wife whose mouth he threatens to seal with Sellotape. And Susan, the middle-class divorcee fleeing her punkish daughter's rumbustious party, »

- Michael Billington

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