Natural Affection and the flipside of the American Dream

Lysette Anthony

Screen and stage star Lysette Anthony leads a strong cast in the UK debut of Natural Affection, a blistering drama by one of the great US playwrights of the late twentieth-century.

The production, which moves into the Jermyn Street Theatre, London, next month also includes Timothy Knightly who appeared with Anthony in Lady Windermere’s Fan at The Manchester Royal Exchange two years ago.

Also in the cast are Jonathan Wadey, Jessica Preddy, Jeremy Smith, Louis Cardona and Adriana Maestranzi.

Christmas 1962, Chicago, small apartment… Unconventional couple, Sue and Bernie, are awaiting the impending visit of Sue’s delinquent son Donnie with excitement and trepidation.

When Donnie makes an unexpected announcement, tensions between the already strained family relationships grow and competition between the two men threatens to destroy the life that Sue has worked so hard to create.

On Christmas Eve when the next-door neighbours join the party, tensions escalate resulting in an inescapable and horrific showdown.

Natural Affection flips the American Dream on its head.

A complex, dark and anguished study of discordant family life, William Inge’s lost treasure explores the themes of sexual dissatisfaction, loneliness, frustrated small-town dreams, alcoholism and tortured identity.

The work has never before seen in the United Kingdom. This lost treasure by an American Icon has, in the playwright’s own words, “been contested, praised, disputed, and criticized.”

Inspired by the violence Inge was witnessing in the media at the time, Natural Affection retains the power to shock and is as resonant today as it was when it was first produced over fifty year’s ago.

Inge, who died in 1973, is known as “playwright of the American Midwest”.

He earned the title of most promising playwright of the 1950 Broadway Season for his play, Come Back, Little Sheba which was later to be made into a film by Paramount Pictures starring Shirley Booth and Don Lancaster.

In 1953, he won a Pulitzer Prize, The Drama Critic Circle Award, The Outer Circle Award and The Theatre Club Award for his play, Picnic, which also later became a film starring William Holden, Kim Novak and Rosalind Russell.

His other plays include, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, and Bus Stop which achieved international recognition when Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray and Eileen Heckart starred in the Academy Award winning 1957 movie.

Natural Affection will be director Grace Wessels’ first production at Jermyn Street Theatre.

She has a BA in Drama from Bristol University, and is artistic director of House on the Hill Productions.

She is currently the company manager of Primavera Productions, and is a literary associate and assistant to the theatre manager at Jermyn Street Theatre.

Natural Affection runs from July 15-August 9.

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