A Delicate Balance

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Sewell Barn, Norwich


Sewell Barn, Norwich

More acute than comfortable is designer John Nicholson's description of his set. He makes his point with straight lines and dangerous angles, with carefully controlled colours and Op Art pictures.

Add a particularly well stocked drinks cabinet and a plentiful supply of glasses, and before even one word is spoken you can guess that striking a delicate balance won't be easy in this particular New England family.

It isn't that the characters in Edward Albee's worrying but very funny play cannot see their problems or put them into words. On the contrary, in fact. They know how to cut away at their feelings and relationships with logical scalpels.

They express their analysis of their dilemmas with the sort of precision you might expect in a psychological textbook.

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The trouble, the irony, is that all that doesn't help a bit. Being clever only makes inner wounds smart more.

Julia Busch heads the cast with authority that tries to deny that her world is fracturing. Precise in language, spiteful in every other thought, she stands and sits upright, with a backbone as eloquent as her tongue.

David Newham, resonant of voice and with an expressive face, only seems to be able to control the drama that comes to his house.

Carole Lovett creates a magnificently persuasive drunk, content up to a point in what she knows perfectly well is only an alcoholic haze.

Keira Long is the daughter who declines the burdens of growing up to middle age that are too much for all the others as well.

The words flow even faster than the booze, sometimes with rather grand phrases, and the conclusion, with its attempt to suggest there is a way out of the difficulties, is not the strongest part of the play.

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