After being less than bowled over by his newest play two weeks ago, tonight it was the turn of one of Wallace Shawn's earlier works, Dominic Cooke's revival of Aunt Dan and Lemon. This was a lot more satisfying, albeit by no means comfortable viewing. The sickly, probably anorexic Lemon (Jane Horrocks) recalls a summer in her childhood when every evening she'd be visited by Aunt Dan (Lorraine Ashbourne,) a friend of the family who would tell her stories. These range from tales of her earlier life and friends, whose sexual exploits sometimes veer into violence, to right-wing rants as Aunt Dan is obsessed with Henry Kissinger and instills in Lemon a belief that violent solutions are a reasonable way for nations to get what they want. The adult Lemon (appropriately it was Aunt Dan who gave her that nickname as she ends up so bitter) has taken this to its natural conclusion and is a cheerful Nazi apologist. Casting Horrocks is genius as her brightness and sweetness make her shocking views all the more upsetting to hear. The contradiction is that you can't help but agree with her that governments do, on a regular basis, commit atrocities while insisting they're not as bad as the Nazis, while at the same time be repelled by the character's obvious feeling that this is a good thing.
A quick mention of designer Lizzie Clachan, and in particular a very clever bit of stage trickery where characters appear and disappear under the covers of a bed. I'm guessing it's a straightforward trapdoor but I was impressed by how smoothly and silently the transitions were done - on both occasions I wasn't entirely sure I hadn't imagined it.
Aunt Dan and Lemon by Wallace Shawn is booking until the 27th of June at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs.