The Omission of the Family Coleman, Ustinov Studio, Bath

CLAUDIO Tolcachir started work on his play The Omission of the Family Coleman when his native Argentina was struggling out of austerity and political chaos, and now the play gets its UK premiere as we are much in the same boat – though poverty in early 21st century Argentina is a very different animal from that in 2019 Britain.

Laurence Boswell has chosen the play, already a huge hit in countries around the world, and invited the Irish playwright Stella Feehily to create a new version, which she sets in a run-down Dublin flat.

It’s the chaos of the decor that first hits you – floral carpet, different floral carpet on some walls, crazy paving on the others, and a much-adorned sofa from which Granny holds the family together.

Tolcachir says it’s not a family play, but an absurdist look at politics and society. To most of us it will look like a family play, and one where dysfunction is a word of judgement rather than comprehension.

Three adult children, their idle and crafty mother and her mother live in cramped squalour. They are passionately loyal to one another. They are broke. One’s a light-fingered no-good boyo, one a filthy idiot savant, one struggling against the odds for some sort of calm, one waiting for the next pills (no matter what they are) and the next Saturday on the tiles and one at the end of the road.

Into this maelstrom of roughhouse games, stolen goods and hunger comes the fourth sibling, the one who (apparently) got away. And then there’s the smarmy doctor and the lonely driver.

There’s an Ortonesque facet to this play, and at the end I wished I had seen it in its original Spanish.

What is certain is that the Omission, on at the Ustinov Studio until 27th April, is brilliantly performed by the Coleman ensemble and their strange visitors. Rowan Polonski brings incredible physical control and conviction to the role of Marko. Evanna Lynch, best known as Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies, makes a loveable Gaby and Anne Kent captures the long-suffering Granny, in a cast that includes David Crowley as the explosive Damian, Natalie Radmall-Quirke as a tight-strung Veronica, Laoisaha O’Callaghan as the scheming, selfish Mary, Patrick Moy as Finbar and Robert Mountford as the doctor.

It is an extraordinary play.


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