The former Bush pub, now horrendously renamed the Fringe and Firkin, seems to be the leisure equivalent of the M25: the extra capacity added during its six-month closure has been immediately filled to overflowing. The theatre above it, which mercifully remains known as the Bush, has acquired a separate entrance and cushioning on its tiered seating, and celebrates its return to home base with the latest play by one of its favourite authors, Richard Cameron.
Since Cameron first came to general attention in 1990 with Can't Stand Up For Falling Down, his long suit has always been family drama in one variant or another; the families have gradually grown older, however, until in All Of You Mine the principal generation is in early middle age, and the gawky teenager who might once have occupied centre-stage is now no more than a source of occasional comic diversion.
One or two of the Cade family may have names which sound as if they come from a John Ford movie, but we are on familiar Cameron ground, a small South Yorkshire mining community – or rather, as the programme points out, ex-mining community. For this piece sees the author's first foray into overtly political territory, in which the Cades' old tensions and the town's decline alike have their roots in the miners' strike twelve years earlier when "the Board" sabotaged the pit in order to give themselves an excuse to close it. When estranged daughter Verna returns for the unveiling of a memorial to the five men who died in the "accident" which sealed the pit's fate (one of them the father of her son), her awkward reconcilement with her house-ridden, near-blind mother coincides with her revelation that the tragedy also involved her cloddish brother-in-law Earl and her coldly prosperous brother Danum, co-owner of the garden centre which now stands on the site of the pit.
The play's politics are straightforward and one-sided, simply adding a further dimension to the family and community history. This may explain why All Of You Mine takes longer than usual to attain the depth of emotion which is the trademark of prime Cameron, but it does so in the end. Simon Usher's production is centred upon Anne Carroll's strong, wonderfully controlled performance as materfamilias Cissy Cade, orchestrating events with a hardened but fundamentally warm heart from her backyard throne. Marion Bailey and Roy North provide sterling support, and Andrew Dunn has a single moment of ragged glory in a tortured speech about Earl's own grief and guilt.
Written for the Financial Times.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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