British-born, New York-based writer Bathsheba Doran has made quite a career across the Atlantic working for both stage and screen – she even plundered the inaugural Berwin Lee Award in 2018, alongside Lucy Kirkwood. But her playwriting hasn’t really seen the light of day back in Blighty. Stella Powell-Jones’ staging of ‘Parents’ Evening’ at the Jermyn Street Theatre, the play’s European debut, trumpets itself as her UK homecoming.
It’s a pretty paltry celebration, to be honest. The play is a two-act, two-hander that takes place entirely in a white, middle-aged, married couple’s bedroom, either side of their eventful expedition to their disobedient ten-year-old daughter’s primary school parents’ evening. They fret about her flirtation with fruity literature. They argue about her arrogant behaviour. They tear strips off each other over their differing approaches to parenthood. And that’s about it.
It’s tightly written, screwed inside an inoffensive 90 minutes of drama, even taking the interval into account, but it’s nowhere near exciting enough: formally, thematically, or dramatically. Doran slips a few shrugs of humour in and makes a couple of mildly interesting observations about family politics but for the most part its just white, middle-class wankers moaning about white, middle-class problems. No revelations. No upheavals. No tension. Nowt.
There’s not much wrong with Powell-Jones’s production, which sees her cast of two ping-pong around Charlotte Espiner’s plushly carpeted bedroom set. Peter Hamilton Dyer and Amy Marston put in perfectly decent, perfectly plausible performances too. He’s a failing novelist, all pomposity and belligerence, like a mildly incredulous Robert Peston pummelling a politician. She’s a lawyer and is very lawyerly.
But there’s not much else left to say. ‘Parents’ Evening’ was acclaimed across the pond, but a premise like this just doesn’t get anyone going in London anymore. A play so forgettable it’s not even frustrating.