In his new play, Phil Ormrod examines the relationships between fathers and sons in unflinching detail: power dynamics, intimidation tactics and an unending search for approval playing out between generations of men. Annabel Mellor reviews:

John Wainwright (Guy Porritt) is a Yorkshire cop and he knows the signs: his lad Bobby (Charles Furness) is going off the rails. When he urges Bobby to find a job, he never suspects that he’ll end up in the employ of the somewhat unsavoury Mike Scofield (Ian Burfield), who runs a salvage yard with his son Chris (Kenny Fullwood). Feeling lost and estranged, Bobby sets out to earn their respect, but his efforts to prove himself to the Scofields lead him into dangerous territory.

Isaac Came Home Mountain Theatre503

Guy Porritt & Charles Furness (image courtesy of Helen Murray)

Phil Ormrod‘s neat, well-crafted piece of writing makes a focused study of the father-son dynamic. The relationships are sketched in subtle detail, particularly between John and Bobby, and it’s a joy to watch the intricacies of the growing friendship between the two teenage boys. Carla Kingham’s tight direction zeroes in on the story’s pressure points, finding an abundance of empathy with these often dislikable characters.

Furness blazes with convincing adolescent intensity as Bobby. We are with him every step of the way as he uncovers his father’s flaws, struggles with his sense of identity and makes some questionable life decisions. Burfield has a sinister power as gruff businessman Mike, never more so than when he’s doling out alarming gems of wisdom with a gun in his hands. “Real strength is making someone flinch when they think about you”, he tells Bobby during an unsettling heart-to-heart while out shooting rabbits.

Isaac Came Home Mountain Theatre503

Charles Furness & Ian Burfield (image courtesy of Helen Murray)

Isaac Came Home From The Mountain has an equally strong creative team behind the scenes. Eleanor Bull’s dilapidated set is aptly highlighted by Ali Hunter’s lighting design, which never fails to place us unmistakably in the play’s various locations. Nancy Kettle’s excellent movement direction also pays off; Bobby and Chris are lithe and limber as they clamber easily over the scaffolding set.

The one flaw in this production is in its premature ending – Ormrod’s story feels as though it has been cut short without any time or space for resolution. Such care has been devoted to developing the characters, and their subsequent relationships, that the abrupt ending seems to cut the play off in its prime.

Charles Furness & Kenny Fullwood (image courtesy of Helen Murray)

Ending aside, Isaac Came Home from the Mountain is a timely contribution to the ongoing international conversation about what it means to be a man. Examining the destructive potential of masculinity, this is a cautionary tale about the damage we can wreak when we’re more focused on squaring up and psyching out each other than we are on building supportive relationships.

 

 

★★★★☆

Isaac Came Home From The Mountain runs at Theatre503 until 2 June 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.