The Lyons, Menier Chocolate Factory

Posted on: 04 October 2013 by Laurence Green

Laurence Greens struggles to empathise with the characters in Nicky Silver's acerbic black comedy.

The Lyons, Menier Chocolate FactoryMeet the family from hell, courtesy of American writer Nicky Silver, in his acerbic black comedy The Lyons, which has taken up residence at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

The Lyons family have gathered around the hospital bed of their dying father Ben. There is his wife Rita who is more concerned with decorating her home and playing backgammon than the condition of her husband, daughter Lisa recovering from alcoholism and a violent partner, writer who has more or less cut himself off from the family. Surface compassion and decorum soon give way to bickering, sniping and betraying each other’s secrets.

In the second act we follow the fortunes of Curtis, initially seen trying to rent an apartment and having a bust up with the estate agent for suggesting the girlfriend he describes is fictitious and that he is in fact a closet homosexual, which causes the young man to punch his client and knock him to the ground, so that Curtis ends up in the hospital bed vacated by his now dead father.

This is a shallow play which goes out of its way to be provocative and if you are offended by jokes about cancer and profane language it is better to stay away. At one point near the beginning the inconsiderate wife says to her husband who has a penchant for swearing (you might too if you were part of this family!): “This cancer eating away at you has put you in a terrible mood!”. Possibly we are supposed to take Nicky Silver’s piece as a parody of a dysfunctional family and admittedly at times the play is savagely funny and truthful about the worst in human nature. But it is an uneven play which has nothing new to say about a subject which has been handled sharper and better many times before on stage and screen.

Director Mark Brokaw draws realistic performances from Nicholas Day as Ben, Isla Blair as Rita, Charlotte Randle as Lisa, Tom Ellis as Curtis, and there is a scene stealing cameo from Katy Secombe, as the hospital nurse who has to deal with this insufferable family.

The trouble is it is difficult to find any empathy with these people.


The Lyons plays at Menier Chocolate Factory until November 16.

Box office: 0202 7378 1713 (A special meal deal is offered, which includes a two course pre-theatre supper plus the show for £33 - £39).

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