Theatre Review - Hir

Felicity Huffman in Hir [Pamela Reith]

Many will remember Felicity Huffman for her role in Desperate Housewives. In Taylor Mac’s black comedy about a dysfunctional American family she plays another matriarch; one who has struggled against the patriarchy and believes she has come out on top.

Hir opens with Arnold (Simon Startin) dressed in a nightie and clown’s wig, sitting in the middle of a room that looks as though it has been ransacked.

His wife Paige (Felicity Huffman) is letting in their son Isaac (Steffan Cennydd) newly returned from serving in the war in Afghanistan.

Arnold has had a stroke, and Paige, released from an abusive relationship, keeps him docile with sedatives.

She happily encourages mess and clutter because she knows it annoys him.

The tables have turned – Paige is now the tormentor, spraying Arnold with water whenever he misbehaves or routinely humiliating him if he ignores her instructions.

Dishonourably discharged and suffering from PTSD, Isaac is horrified by the state of the house and his father. But as Paige reminds him their “starter home” (cleverly evoked by Ceci Calf’s cardboard set) is situated on a landfill site. They remained stuck there after Arnold lost his job as a plumber.

Meanwhile, Paige’s daughter Max (Thalía Dudek) is transitioning – transgender and genderqueer. Hir (pronounced ‘here’) and ze are now Max’s preferred gender pronouns.

For Paige, Max’s stance is liberating. She sees hir as challenging constrictive societal norms, and representing a bright future.

Steven Kunis’s well-paced production starts well, but with its frequent digressions Mac’s drama loses focus in the second half.

Nevertheless, the performances are compelling. Making her UK stage debut, Huffman leads a stellar ensemble cast as Paige; her timing is impeccable.

Until March 16

Originally published by Islington Tribune