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Marvin’s Room

by on 16 September 2019

Sombre, Wry, Clever

Marvin’s Room

by Scott McPherson

Teddington Theatre Club, Coward Room Studio, Hampton until 21st September

Review by Helen Astrid

In this dark comedy in two acts by Scott McPherson, you would be forgiven if you thought Marvin’s Room a hybrid of Samuel Beckett and Tennessee Williams. Without the pregnant, awkward pauses à la Beckett, the American accents were not quite as far South as a Williams play.


Playwright and author McPherson is also an actor who shares his own personal experience of being HIV positive and of the various family breakdowns and dynamics as a consequence of his illness. Brought up a devout Roman Catholic, religion permeates Marvin’s Room, given by Teddington Theatre Club at the Coward Room, Hampton Playhouse.

Marvin3Based on a major film with Meryl Streep and Leonardo DiCaprio, the play focuses on the reunion of two estranged sisters. We never see Marvin, Bessie’s father; we only hear his painful groans offstage, leaving our imagination to determine his aged physical appearance. He has been dying for the past two decades and Bessie, played by Linda Hansell, is his full-time carer. As is often the case in such situations, the carer needs caring for! She herself becomes ill and requires a bone marrow transplant, but is unable to find a suitable donor.


There is much family (and familiar) tension throughout. Each has their own issues and unresolved resentments. McPherson draws on his wit and snappy dialogue to delight and surprise.


The intimate setting of the Coward Room was perfect for this kitchen-sink drama directed by Eirin Compton. Susan Gerlach as Lee, Daniel Baldock as Dr Wally were excellent; the two sons, Alex Rand as Hank and Ben Jeffrey as Charlie gave fine performances. The latter bears an uncanny parallel to Christopher in Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.


Atmospheric lighting and smart screen projections set the many different scene changes with precision; these were swiftly executed by nurses in uniform accompanied by well-known song clips ranging from Simon and Garfunkel to George Michael.


For an in-depth peek into family issues, Marvin’s Room is wry, sombre yet clever. It’s worth seeing not least to address one’s own family mechanics.

Helen Astrid
September 2019

Photography by Jojo Leppink (Handwritten Photography)

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