Friday, 14 December 2018

Getting right to the Heart of family life

EVERY family has its secrets. Some painful, some amusing, but always fascinating to the outsider.

EVERY family has its secrets. Some painful, some amusing, but always fascinating to the outsider.

In Giles Cole’s new play The Heart of Things there is the chance to watch the secrets spill out as a family gets together over a long weekend in Norfolk.

The play arrives in Henley direct from its premiere run at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London’s West End (see review, right) with the same top–line cast and sharp and poignant observations on family life.

“It is essentially a family drama,” says Giles. “It has its humour as does every family. I suppose you might call it a dysfunctional family but then aren’t all families dysfunctional in some way?”

Set in May 2010 just after the general election as the political parties manoeuvred towards the coalition, Peter, a teacher, returns home for his sister’s 50th birthday with a new love in his life and pitches straight into the politics of family.

Giles says it is not a play about Westminster politics: “But the fact that it is set in post–election 2010 just as we are coming into a general election in 2015 does give it a greater significance.”

Also at the house are Peter’s father, his sister’s son and her ex. Peter is having a mid–life crisis. He feels he is not going anywhere and during the weekend it builds up to an even greater crisis for him.

“The main concern of the play is the many ways in which a family guards its secrets, and its ambitions, and its true feelings, until they are forced into the open. And then of course the genie is out of the bottle,” says Giles. “It goes deeper than a lot of other plays might. But I think it is a hopeful piece with its comic moments... just as life is.”

Peter is played by Nick Waring, an extremely well–known face on the West End stage and in television, who heads a strong cast that includes Ralph Watson as his father and Patience Tomlinson as his sister.

Giles, who was an actor before he turned to writing and directing, is no stranger to the Kenton, having devised and compiled the acclaimed tribute to Sir John Mortimer staged at the theatre as part of the Henley Literary Festival in 2009.

He wrote The Heart of Things in tandem with his successful play about Sir Terence Rattigan, The Art of Concealment.

“It started as a one–act play and then became two. I have been making one or two minor adjustments to the script since we opened. But I am very lucky to have such a wonderful cast who have, quite rightly, been praised for their acting. We are all thrilled to be coming to Henley. I know the theatre and it is a wonderful venue and I hope the audiences like it,” he added.

Ed Simons, chairman of the Kenton Theatre trustees, said: “We are delighted to have a new play come straight from London to the Kenton.

“It is exactly the sort of production we want to encourage and is wonderful for people in the town who love theatre, especially as the West End is coming to us. I really hope people support this exciting venture as it could well lead to other productions following suit.”

The Heart of Things is at the Kenton at 8pm on Friday and Saturday, April 10 and 11. To book go to

The box office is open Monday to Friday, 11am to 3pm and Saturday 10am to 1pm. Call (01491) 575698.

Jon Ryan

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