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Ed Harris shows exquisite talent in family drama

02 December, 2016 — By Catherine Usher

Ed Harris in Buried ChildPhoto: Johan Persson

at Trafalgar Studios  

INITIALLY Buried Child seems to be a study of family dynamics. Halie (Amy Madigan) is getting ready to go out for the evening and her husband Dodge (Ed Harris) is parked on the couch, smoking, coughing and grumbling.

His attitude towards his wife is somewhat dismissive – “Just let her babble…” he tells his son – but underneath the humdrum domestic scene, it becomes clear that something more troublesome is brewing.

When Hollywood stars assemble en masse in hits such as The Truman Show, in which Harris starred in 1998, they blend together obligingly to form a memorable film. But here, on the London stage with all eyes on Harris’s portrayal of the world-weary Dodge, the spotlight is firmly on him alone. Harris doesn’t disappoint. He displays what a subtle yet expressive, exquisite talent he is, entrancing the audience with his performance. Understated, yet breathtakingly powerful, he infuses the character with a range of emotions from humour and sarcasm to bitterness and defeat.

The exchanges between Dodge and his grandson’s girlfriend Shelly (Charlotte Hope) are a highlight of the show. She injects a bit of life into a regretful, whisky-soaked man and Hope is admirably disarming in the role – fragile, yet plucky and positive. Shelly asks a multitude of questions on behalf of the audience and is presented as the detective within the play. She fluctuates between taking control and drowning in confusion and her young, delicate figure embodies the potential danger of her situation. She’s inquisitive but uneasy and the audience shares her sense of trepidation and alarm.

While the matriarch is absent, Shelly’s relationship with Dodge is free to develop, but when Halie returns, she out-menaces them all.

Ultimately the play, written by Sam Shepard, is open to interpretation and audiences will spend a lot of time pondering, discussing and probably disagreeing. What’s certain is that the performances from the seven-strong cast are consistently impressive, memorable and unflinching.

Until February 18,
2017 08455 058500


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