Review: Natural Affection @JSTheatre Jermyn Street Theatre

What a discovery! This is an astonishing, powerful play getting its well deserved UK premiere over 50 years after it was written. Lysette Anthony is superb as Sue, a successful, single woman living in Chicago with a younger partner Bernie, excellently played by Timothy Knightley. He’s struggling to hold down a decent job, won’t marry her and resents the fact that she pays for everything. Into this comes Louis Cardona, totally convincing as her delinquent son, home from a prison farm on the condition that he lives with his mother. The playwright, William Inge, was discovered by Tennessee Williams and there are echoes of the latter in the play’s incredible emotional intensity, although the characters are very different from Williams’s. I do hope it doesn’t take another 50 years before another revival of Inge’s work.

The set has been built on a tight budget and some of the lesser characters are not so well played but it really doesn’t matter when the central actors play as perfectly as this. One warning, though. The programme doesn’t say when the play was written so I made the mistake of looking it up on Wikipedia during the interval. I was amazed to find that it dates back to 1963 but unfortunately the article also gives away the powerful ending of the play, apparently based on a true story.

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