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Theatre Review: Manor tries to achieve too much – and fails

One day, great plays will be written about far-right groups, climate change and racism, but Manor is not one of them.

Nancy Carroll (as Diana) and Shaun Evans (Ted), in the awful Manor.

National Theatre, London, until Jan 1

Great plays will some day be written about far right groups, racism, climate change and the class system. But one thing is for sure: Moira Buffini is not the playwright to write them. She tries stuffing the whole lot and more into Manor. This is an irredeemably trivial play that tries and fails to get its noddle around some desperately serious issues.

It’s beggars belief that no one at the National could comprehend that this utter tosh – directed by Buffini’s sister Fiona –was not merely going to leave the punters feeling shortchanged and insult their intelligence, but, worse still, offend them with the gratuitous use of a four-letter word to describe Pakistanis.

The play nicks from The Mousetrap the idea of a diverse group of individuals taking refuge from a storm in a spooky old house deep in the countryside. This one is presided over by an absurdly snobby owner called Lady Diana (Nancy Carroll), who has a secret. Her hipster husband Pete (Owen McDonnell) is lying apparently dead in the kitchen after she accidentally knocked him down the stairs.

She then finds herself playing host to Ted (Shaun Evans), the head of a far right group, a right-on vicar called Fiske (David Hargreaves) and the unemployed Perry (Edward Judge).

The problem is there is no characterisation, no depth and no point. Characters no one cares about get shot, talk platitudes about how we all need to pull together, or announce, out of the blue, that they are gay and have found love.

With nothing whatsoever to work with, the actors just go through the motions. It’s hard not to feel their embarrassment.

The whole stage is flooded in its final moments and suddenly Buffini has switched from blandly noting that racism is a bad thing to blandly noting that climate change is a bad thing. A fitting enough symbol for a playwright woefully out of her depth.

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