Harper Regan

Posted on: 27 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Lesley Sharp stars as a woman running away in this demanding new play.


Family, love and delusion are the issues explored by Simon Stephens in his absorbing new play Harper Regan, on at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe auditorium, directed by Marianne Elliott.

On a startlingly bright autumn night in 2006, Harper Regan walks out of her home and job in Uxbridge to visit her dying father in Stockport.  She tells nobody that she is going or where she is going, putting everything she has ever built at risk, most notably her husband and daughter.  For two lost days and nights, until it looks as though her entire life might unravel, she doesn’t turn back.

On her way she encounters an assortment of people including a thoughtful black student at the same school as her daughter, a vile, racist journalist, her somewhat smug mother - the best scene in the play is when mother and daughter clash over their feelings for the deceased father - and a married man, with whom Harper has a brief fling.

Eventually we realise the reason the family moved south and what has been the cause of the rift in Harper’s home life - her husband’s conviction for a sex offence - and finally see her family’s first faltering steps towards repairing their own continuing relationships.

This is a play about damaged individuals, people who are unable to come to terms with difficult problems, problems they are unable to articulate.  But it is also a play that offers the possibility of redemption and at the end about a family who reach a position from which they may be able to move on together.

Stephens has an ear for naturalistic dialogue and writes with economic brevity.  Indeed one could well say he has fashioned a drama out of a crisis.  Marianne Elliott has offered surefooted direction. A revolving stage conveys the different locations with conviction and ease while helping to keep the story moving at a brisk pace, for which full credit must go to designer Hildegard Bechtler.

Yet it is the excellent central performance by Lesley Sharp as the independent-minded but harassed Harper, slowly learning to deal with her series of heightened personal catastrophes that makes this journey through tenderness and cruelty such an affecting and thought-provoking experience.

Continues in repertory until 9th August 2008.

By Laurence Green

Booking Information

Box office: 0207 452 3000 or: www.nationaltheatre.org.uk

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