Rory Kinnear is on a frankly obscene roll at the moment: the last few months have seen him take the lead in two primetime TV shows (sitcom ‘Count Arthur Strong’ and arty crime drama ‘Southcliffe’) while continuing to pack ‘em in at the National Theatre as ‘Othello’s Iago.
So what do you get the actor who has everything? Why, the chance to stage his own play.
Far from a vanity project, ‘The Herd’ is a very respectable debut. It’s a well-observed domestic drama about a fault line riddled family that threatens to fracture for good one afternoon as they try – and fail – to celebrate the twenty-first birthday of Andy, the profoundly disabled son of Carol (Amanda Root) and Ian (Adrian Rawlins).
It has a powerful final third, conveying something of the sheer, soul-crushing strain that caring for a profoundly disabled child can have on even the most decent of families – and Kinnear knows something about that, having a profoundly disabled elder sister.
But it takes a long time to get going: the start of the play is frontloaded with claggy introductory exposition and lacks real incident or drive. I suspect Kinnear’s biggest mistake was in persuading heavyweight Howard Davies to direct: over at the NT, he’s a virtuoso orchestrator of sumptuous Russian classics, but he never quite gives this tragi-romcom the zing and vitality it needs.
That’s not to say he makes a hash of it, and a fine cast serve him well: Root and Rawlins find the required depths in their characters, and Anna Calder-Marshall is on wonderful comic form as the clan’s insufferably prying grandmother.
I wouldn’t advise Kinnear to give up the day-job just yet – but give it time.
By Andrzej Lukowski