When first produced Alan Bennett’s Enjoy was a rare flop. It marched back into the West End last year with a record breaking advance but still received what can best be described as ‘mixed’ reviews from the National Press. Many of the critics seemed to take issue with the fact that for them this wasn’t a traditional Bennett play – as if he was bound by some contract to only write in a certain prescribed style.
Now on a National tour, thankfully audiences are once again proving the critics wrong.
Set in 1980s Leeds, Bennett’s home town, Connie and Wilf are about to be moved from their soon to be demolished family home into a modern maisonette.
As residents of the city’s last back-to-back properties there is interest in documenting their lifestyle, and so they are sent a silent observer to witness and record their everyday lives.
What the observer realises however is far from ordinary, here are a couple, married for 30 years but silently falling apart. Connie is slowly loosing her memory and her mind and Wilf is racked with pain after a hit and run accident. What is on the surface a happy marriage is on closer examination rockier than either would care to admit hiding a history of violence and sexual frustration. Matters aren’t helped by Connie’s fast vanishing memory and her inability to remember where her long lost son and wayward daughter are. Daughter Linda returns home with her issues and the prodigal son returns in an unexpected manner.
Will the couple move to the new house and will their marriage survive the move.
As ever with Alan Bennett this is a play that mixes hilarious, wonderfully observed humour one minute with heart-renching sadness the next. The plays ending is both moving and sinister and is one reason perhaps the critics have been divided.
Alongside Bennett’s wonderful writing, this production excels with two outstanding central performances, David Troughton’s seething pot of anger that is Wilf and Alison Steadman’s increasingly frail and vulnerable Connie. Both command the stage with highly detailed and multi layered performances.
Despite what some critics say this is classic Bennett and this production restores this script to its rightful place as a star in the British Theatrical annals.