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Birmingham Rep reopens with stylish Alan Bennett play

People, Birmingham Rep.

People, Birmingham Rep.

AFTER two-and-a-half years away, Birmingham Rep returned to its revamped home last week.

The show chosen to raise the curtain at the venue is People - Alan Bennett’s latest play about an aristocrat clinging to her ageing ancestral home.

Lady Dorothy Stacpoole (a lively Sian Phillips) is desperate to prevent her younger sister’s plan to hand over the house to the National Trust.

To keep it from the clutches of the heritage charity, she considers striking a deal with a shadowy consortium to move the South Yorkshire estate brick-by-brick to Dorset and even lets a porn company shoot a film at the property.

The struggle between siblings about what to do with the building is at the centre of this National Theatre production.

Although rather like the precarious pile of bricks itself, there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

Yes, there’s plenty of belly laughs - we learn the house has a collection of chamber pots used by eminent guests and never emptied and that Lady Stacpoole is behind with the papers (she chastises her sister for spoiling the ending of the Falklands War).

But there are also some poignant revelations about the family’s history and a fair few digs at British institutions - from the Church of England to the National Trust itself.

A fantastic start to the Rep’s rather promising autumn season. The show runs until September 21.

DAVID IRWIN

 

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