If you blink, you might miss Ann Henning Jocelyn’s play about Ted Hughes and his mistress Assia Wevill. At just 50 minutes it’s a slip of a thing, a teaser, really, for a much longer story.
It is set in Doonreagan House, in Connemara in Ireland, where Hughes, Wevill and their children, fled after the suicide of Hughes’s wife, the poet Sylvia Plath. In truth, the time they spent there was short – a few months in 1966 – but according to Hughes’s later writings, he saw it as an important part of his personal and professional life.
Henning Jocelyn (who is the current owner of Doonreagan) has created this play by piecing together a few conversations between the two lovers from biographies, poems, letters and notes. At its best, it’s an intimate and subtle portrait of a troubled couple, but mostly there just isn’t enough to it. Often the clunky elbowing-in of biographical details stands out, where it wouldn’t in a longer or more detailed script.
There is, however, a plausibility about Wevill’s transition from heady socialite to someone haunted by paranoia. Much of this is down to Flora Montgomery’s performance as Wevill. She makes it possible to imagine why, three years later, Wevill went on to kill herself and her child in the same way that Plath took her own life.
Alex Dmitriev’s production is functional but takes too much time over several photographic projections of the Connemara landscape. As with the script, the production lacks the bite and intrigue that this moment in the lives of two troubled souls surely offers.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell
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I saw the play at the ADC Cambridge. The reviews so have panned the play. Consequently the audience numbers were poor. However, I must defend the play. It was compelling drama. Not all of us know about Ted Hughes, Slvia Plath et.al. The 60s setting is authentic. the Evening Standard critic complained that the scenes of the the Irish countryside were too long. Go to Ireland, as Hughes and Wevil did. There is a magic about it which inspired Hughes' Crow cycle. Yes, there is a great deal of introspection, possibly the thoughts and morality to which an older generation can relate. A fascinating insight to the tragic circumstances of Hughes and the womaen and family in his life.