Quite where are we to place playwright Rodney Ackland (born Norman Ackland Bernstein in 1908) in the pantheon of British playwrights? A contemporary of Terence Rattigan, Ackland had a talent for exploring the fault lines that divide a family, then draw them closer. This rare revival is perhaps his most autobiographical work. On the one hand it provides evidence that Ackland is too often overlooked, but on the other it illustrates, perhaps unwittingly, just why that may be the case.
Set and written in 1936, the action takes place in the living room of a bohemian family, the Monkhams, in their small Hampstead flat. It is here, on the sofa, that highly strung aspirant playwright Clive (Adam Buchanan) attempts to write, in prime position to be distracted by his widowed mother, his lovelorn sisters, the possible arrival of debt collectors and the lodger with whom he is in love but who is constantly wooed by a middle-aged bore. So it's a slightly contrived conceit, as is Clive's struggling poet friend who enters and exits through the window.
Still, if Chekhov were English perhaps his plays would have looked something like this. Rather like the Gayevs in The Cherry Orchard, the Monkhams are of highish social standing but very low income. There's something Chekhovian too about the serial humiliations of unrequited love.
In Oscar Toeman's well acted production the 11-strong cast occupy this pub theatre's tiny stage without ever appearing cramped.
As matriarch Rhoda, a terrific Sasha Waddell treads a fine line between cheeriness and stoicism, while Buchanan brings an earnest arrogance to the role of Clive.
But there's little sense of the increasingly unstable period in which this family lives. Their concerns feel uniquely theirs and the effect is more distancing than involving.