napoli cast

Mona Goodwin, Georgia May Foote and Hannah Bristow

Napoli, Brooklyn

Malvern Theatres


Full of atmosphere and slow-building tension, the latest offering from the impressive Original Theatre Company made its European debut at Malvern Theatres.

Napoli, Brooklyn by writer Meghan Kennedy tells the story of a family of Italian immigrants in New York and has opened in the West Midlands following a stint in Broadway and ahead of its opening in London.

This sensitively written piece packed with fascinating roles has been taken on by the Theatre Company, known for touring with character-led dramas including The Habit of Art, Monogamy (later called Caroline’s Kitchen) and Birdsong.

While Italian-born parents Nic and Luda are finding the American Dream elusive while trying to assimilate into the culture, their three Americanised daughters are developing their own voices and independence, which proves a test to everyone’s boundaries and expectations.

Director Lisa Blair said she wanted to create something current from this historic tale, set in 1960, and she has achieved that as there are age-old themes of domestic abuse, coming out as gay, racial prejudice and women’s rights.

It’s an atmospheric piece thanks to Blair’s excellent direction and she does a wonderful job of creating several build-ups of oppressive tension during the two-hour play, particularly around the dinner table.

Blair also handles a love scene between two young people particularly well, keeping them fully dressed despite their movements showing that they are removing their clothes. It comes across as deeply intimate and intense although there isn’t any flesh on show.

From the opening scene, there’s a momentum behind this production that keeps the action moving. It’s a family drama, billed as being in the tradition of Arthur Miller in that it is far from a gentle coming of age sitcom as it has much more bite.

This play depicts a range of emotions around love and friendship and doesn't shy away from the darker moments of life. It also benefits from steering away from clichés, constantly surprising and unravelling new developments.

Refreshingly, women are central to the storyline and there are far more females in the cast than men. Out of a small but excellent cast of eight, six are women.

Each character shares the lead as the well-crafted script gives them all time to develop to let the audience understand their motivations, hopes and fears.

Young Hannah Bristow as the headstrong youngest daughter Francesca stands out among a strong cast but her storyline is the boldest of the play as she battles to be recognised for who she truly is. Bristow has an emphatic energy on stage that grabs all the attention.

She is well matched against Robert Cavanah as her overbearing, cruel father. Many will recognise him from television shows like Shetland. Madeleine Worrall as mother Luda also gives a powerfully emotive yet subtle performance.

And special mention must go to onions. They play a key part, both on stage and in the script. Whether that is the symbolism of the multi-layered complexities of life or the food theme that also runs through the plot and makes you feel hungry for a good Italian meal when you leave the theatre.

Napoli, Brooklyn is an enthralling addition to the Original Theatre Company's portfolio. It's a complex, clever piece of theatre with layers of hard-hitting themes that leave plenty of food for thought, including those onions.

The show continues on tour from Malvern ending with a London premiere at the Park Theatre in June. To 04-05-19.

Alison Brinkworth


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