To indulge and digest a play that lasts over 6 hours sounds like a tough ask, even for the most passionate lover of theatre; and yet The Inheritance does it beautifully, perfectly and somewhat poetically.
As I sit there taking in the gorgeous sets and being swept along with a storyline that just captivates and inspires, I can see that large amounts of the audience are visibly taken by the piece too; and are at awe of the somewhat audacity of the story, based on the novel Howards End by E.M Forster. Now moved to the Noel Coward Theatre from the Young Vic, the play has found its home in the legendary setting. With its ornate and decorative exterior, mixed with its high walled, traditional interior, the Noel Coward Theatre just acts like a home to this stunning play.
Divided into two relatively equal parts, Matthew Lopez’s epic story centres, primarily, on the life and loves of the handsome but lost couple Eric Glass (Kyle Soller), Toby Darling (Andrew Burnap) and their gaggle of thirty-something friends.
The whole story is wonderfully narrated by the entire cast, which includes the captivating Paul Hilton who depicts E.M Forster; a sort of mentor that presides over the young men. This is a story in which different worlds, and friendships, come together with both poetry and venom.
Although being a very long story to tell, it is broken down into 6 acts, and director Stephen Daldry (who has also directed An Inspector Calls, Billy Elliot: The Musical and is also rumoured to direct a film version of Wicked and a future Star Wars spin-off revolving around Obi-Wan Kenobi), manages to keep the whole piece moving and ties everything together with an unrivalled sharpness from start to finish.
Part one explores the fallout that occurs between social justice start-up founder Eric and writer Toby; who appears to have a dark past that has yet to heal. Lopez looks at their life together as the perfect dream; they have a stunning apartment in New York, friends in abundance pouring white wine non-stop, and of course, they have the hottest sex that you could possibly imagine. However, are things all as they seem?
The romance takes a significant tumble when they meet young Adam (Samuel H. Levine); who wants to make a career for himself in the world of theatre.
There are times throughout The Inheritance in which Lopez writes such venomous verse that Eric and Toby’s rage feels very, very real. Lopez’s captivating and heart-in-the-throat style monologues are not only powerful but give strong indications of the flaws that the characters possess. Especially with Walter (Paul Hilton) who has been by the side of his partner and Republican Henry Wilcox (John Benjamin Hickey) for 36 years. These two characters have a story to tell that will deeply touch your heart.
As a slightly younger theatergoer, it is hard to comprehend just how haunting the AIDS crisis was; however, I too was so swept away and taken back by Walter’s story while discovering what happened to all of the young men who died at the time.
Part two is just as raw and full of emotion; any member of the audience intending to watch both parts in one day will struggle not being overcome with a sense of overwhelming grief.
In a beautiful cast made up primarily of men, the casting of Vanessa Redgrave is a shocking, and yet wonderful part of the play. Redgrave is perhaps stage royalty. Known for her many talents both on the stage and on film, she was rightly inducted to the America Theatre Hall of Fame back in 2003. You do have to hang on until the very final act in which she is indeed allowed to shine in her full blaze and glory. Redgrave plays the reformed homophobe Margaret who is still mourning the loss of so many during the AIDS crisis. As you could imagine, Redgrave does a fantastic, compelling job. Her authoritative figure helps to underline the whole story and is somewhat a foundation of the story.
Despite the length of the whole play, the six acts blend, mix and combine wonderfully together with a very talented cast.
Every story has a heart. And the heart in The Inheritance is one that is hard to beat. The heart of The Inheritance is a story of people running away from the truth; be that loneliness, illness, or even their past decisions. The AIDS crisis is a tough subject to tackle and is still very raw in our modern history, and yet Lopez, alongside Daldry, creates a play that is so relevant today and is well worth going to see and to soak up.