Being in lockdown due to the corona virus pandemic, I thought I’d use the time to work on my backlog of shows I never got around to review back when I actually saw them. I just don’t always have the time to write reviews right away and sometimes they just fall into an eternal backlog that I am now striving to work through! I actually viewed this production on 03 October 2018 and am writing the review with my theatre notes written during and after the performance.
I didn’t know much about The Height Of The Storm, but a friend had booked to see it and offered me her spare ticket. I was definitely looking forward to seeing Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins live on stage.
Pryce plays the character of André, a recent widower who used to be a famous writer and struggles to accept the death of his wife. But just a short while after, we meet his wife Madeleine, played by Atkins, who also seems to be recently widowed. Memories and scenes blend into each other and it is difficult to keep track of what is real and what imagined or mental confusion.
The couple’s two daughters, Anne and Elise, also feature in the play and a beautiful study of family life and interdependency unfolds. The tensions rise when a mysterious visitor claims to be a former acquaintance of André’s, and recounts details of the past that are wholly unfamiliar to the rest of the family, alluding to a possible affair but never quite giving all her secrets away.
Atkins brilliantly portrays the grieving Madeleine as a resulte and strong woman who despite her great loss is still intent on living her life as best she can and hold her grasp on reality fairly well, seeming almost annoyed and offended by her daughter’s concerns for her wellbeing. All the while André is played by Pryce as a confused man losing his grasp on reality and slowly descending into mental anguish and chaos as his grief consumes him utterly.
I’m can’t claim I understood all the intricacies of this play or even fully understood which of the characters was alive or imagined, but this was an emotionally gripping play about love, life, families, and memories. About how the human brain does not quite function optimally anymore as we age, and how families can work against and with each other in equal measure. The Height Of The Storm was one of the consuming and captivating plays I have seen in a very long time and left me emotionally overwhelmed and with many thoughts to work through. Full six out of six rainbow sloths from me!