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Theatre Review: August--Osage County ****

Joy Watters reviews a production that 'is a very funny and utterly bleak portrait of the modern dysfunctional family'.

It is the sheer scale of new artistic director Andrew Panton’s first production for the Rep that impresses. Not just the size of the huge set or the pleasingly large cast but Panton’s attention to each and every detail in the staging of this epic play.

Tracy Letts’ 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning play is a very funny and utterly bleak portrait of the modern dysfunctional family, graphically showing the misery that parents and children wreak on each other, all set against an insufferably hot August amidst the Oklahoma plains.

Panton has assembled an excellent 13-strong ensemble which immerses itself and the audience in the family war, so much so that it’s hard to believe the running time is 3 and a half hours. Letts has created some cracking roles for women to get their teeth into.

The Weston family gathers together after elderly father, an alcoholic poet, drown himself. His wife Violet (Ann Louise Ross) is a foul-tongued monster preying on her loved ones, at her worst when overdosing on the meds she takes for mouth cancer. Mother of three daughters, each one damaged in her own way, Ross is outstanding as she verbally eviscerates her own.

Emily Winter too shines as Barb, the seemingly tough daughter, standing up to her mother’s bile and even coming to blows. She also captures the awfulness of realising she has turned into her mother; her academic husband goes off with a young student citing Barb’s hardness as a factor.

The ensemble deftly shows that every character is in an unsuccessful relationship.

The only black mark goes to the huge revolving set of the ancient house which breaks the sight lines. You don’t want anything to come between you and theatre like this.

August: Osage County runs at Dundee Rep until Saturday 16 September.

Tags: theatre

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