Tribes by Nina Raine, Royal Court, London 14th October-13th November
With two new plays on the way (the second, Tiger Country, set in a London hospital, is at the Hampstead Theatre in the new year), the moment has come for Nina Raine to fulfil her promise. Her first play, Rabbit, about a 29th birthday party full of bad behaviour and girlie sex talk, won her two “most promising” awards in 2006.
Tribes is a study of an unconventional family, playing by its own rules and with its own private language and jokes, like a modern equivalent of Noël Coward’s self-absorbed Bliss family in Hay Fever. But the stakes are a bit higher, as a struggle of love and possession develops over young Billy, who is deaf. Billy is the one person who really listens, and a chance encounter makes him finally want to be heard.
Raine’s father is the poet Craig: she has inherited a perfect ear for acute observation, nuanced point-scoring and sexual one-upmanship; and she could emerge as the most elegant dramatic wordsmith on this stage since Christopher Hampton. It will be intriguing, too, to see how artistic director Dominic Cooke’s restoration of the middle classes develops. Tribes is directed by Roger Michell, who started out as an assistant to John Osborne and Samuel Beckett at this theatre; and a fine cast includes Kika Markham, Stanley Townsend, Michelle Terry and Harry Treadaway.