REVIEW: The House They Grew Up In at Minerva Theatre, Chichester

Daniel Ryan (as Daniel) and Samantha Spiro (as Peppy) in Chichester Festival Theatre and Headlong's production of The House They Grew Up In. Picture by Johan Persson
Daniel Ryan (as Daniel) and Samantha Spiro (as Peppy) in Chichester Festival Theatre and Headlong's production of The House They Grew Up In. Picture by Johan Persson
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AFTER twenty minutes of this play, I was not sold.

By the end, I thought it was the best portrayal of mental illness I had seen on stage. So what changed?

The opening is fairly slow – it sets up the relationship between Peppy and Daniel, a reclusive brother and sister whose house looks straight out of a TV show about hoarders.

At first I thought this would be it, two hours of them trying to find a cat and talking about busses.

But I underestimated the plot twists that lay ahead. From the moment a neighbouring boy came into their home uninvited, it became clear these opening moments were needed to understand the pair as a police investigation casts a harsh glare on their lives.

The two leads should be commended for their ‘warts-and-all’ performances. As Peppy, Samantha Spiro was brimming with nervous energy that spilled over into resentment, hysteria, regret and whimsical humour. She did not seem to stop for breath all night. By contrast, Daniel Ryan captured the innocence of her brother in a sensitive and authentic portrayal of someone likely to have autism.

The two are never labelled with specific conditions, and that is how it should be - it let us get to know the people behind the diagnoses and focus on our similarities, not our differences.

Until August 5.