The Inheritance Parts 1 & 2
Updated: Sep 28, 2019
"You have no idea whose lives you will touch, and which ones you will save. But in order to do that, you must love. Even though you know your heart will be broken by it. The only way to heal heartache is to risk more.
I feel the only way to start this is with a quote as the masterpiece can describe itself better than anyone else can for it. This is truly a masterpiece in storytelling, in writing and in acting.
It starts with a group of people in the present day individually trying to write a story and are helped by their teacher / muse who is EM Forster (because, theatre). As they start to tell the story the people take on the characters and inhabit the characters they create and this allows for more narration than you’d usually find in theatre, with people helping describe characters choices, feelings and actions. The importance within this is the multi-layered and intertwined stories that they are able to tell through the 7 hours.
Most people will already be aware that it puts some of the focus on the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s but to say it’s about that really misses most of the story. It does describe this in a heart wrenching account by someone who survived but it also looks across how it has impacted 3 generations of gay men (remember it’s set in the present day), often times without them realizing. The story is about the bonds that are formed, the friendships people have, their loves, losses, desires, needs, lust, jealousy and so many other emotions people have in their lives and how these impact on themselves and those around them.
I don’t want to focus on too much of the plot in fear of spoiling it but there is one item I do want to call out. In the first act there is someone describing the deaths they’d seen but they are able to personify for others in a way which makes the heartbreak real and the fear understandable and relatable and the raw emotion draws you in. It’s no longer just numbers, it’s names and faces.
The staging is simple with just a raised (and lowered) platform where most the action takes place. This allows you to focus exclusively on the performances which are beautiful and sensitive. Each actor completely inhabits the character as they show you their laughter, love and tears. As an ensemble they’re incredible.
Having so many stories it would be easy for things to get lost but it manages to focus on the minutiae. It feels epic yet is intimate. I’m reminded of Keats Ode to a Grecian Urn saying ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’. This runs with, embodies and smashes it.
The story has plenty of humour as well as tenderness that weaves across the emotional path it takes. It takes something special to keep you gripped for 7 hours and this is that something special.
It’s a masterpiece. In equal parts witty, intelligent and moving. Through the layers and several themes it touches on the central premise which is about renewal, continuity, teaching and learning which is wrapped up in what each generation inherits from the previous generation.
Obviously it gets a 5 Laura Michelle-Kelly rating but at this point ratings feel insufficient. Usually such a rating will tell you it’s going to be a great night at the theatre. But it doesn’t explain how much you need to see this. I’ve never before been this moved by theatre, I’ve never cried so much in theatre nor felt it was so important. I hope it gets brought back so more people will be able to experience it.
It is due to open in New York later this year and will coincide with the 50 year anniversary of The Stonewall riots.