After a couple of shows I wasn't in the least bit impressed by, it looked like the Donmar Warehouse was losing its touch. Fortunately Simon Gray's The Late Middle Classes is a step back in the right direction. Told in flashback, the tragicomedy follows a young boy in the 1950s, and the very different relationships he has with his actual parents (Helen McCrory and Peter Sullivan) and the piano teacher (Robert Glenister) who provides an alternative father figure. David Leveaux's assured production pitches the bittersweet tone just right, with a lot of laugh-out-loud moments but an unmistakeable melancholy underscoring everything. McCrory is as ever fantastic, and her acidic scenes with Sullivan are beautifully timed, although the latter's clipped delivery meant he wasn't always audible. Glenister's understated performance is great as well, letting you into his character but retaining enough of an enigma that, when questions are raised over whether his relationship with the boy is an inappropriate one, the audience has to make its own mind up. Eleanor Bron as his Austrian mother, an alcoholic shut-in after her experiences in the War, has some scene-stealing moments as well. The play relies unusually strongly on a child actor's performance, and fortunately Laurence Belcher, who played Holly tonight, manages to keep the different threads together. A production that's definitely worth a look.
The Late Middle Classes by Simon Gray is booking until the 17th of July at the Donmar Warehouse.