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Review: The Inheritance, at Young Vic Theatre

Intensely moving seven-and-a-half-hour play, inspired by EM Forster’s Howard’s End, follows a group of gay New York intellectuals in the run-up to Trump’s election

06 April, 2018 — By Howard Loxton

Vanessa Redgrave and Samuel H Levine in The Inheritance. Photo: Simon Annand

MATTHEW Lopez’s play is inspired by EM Forster’s Howard’s End and uses elements of that novel to offer a picture of a group of gay New York intellectuals in the run-up to Trump’s election while looking back to the Aids plague of the 1980s.

It starts with a group of creative writing students led by a man who could to be Forster reincarnated. He gets them to start improvising a story which is soon being acted out, a story of the love of gentle lawyer Eric and Toby, his egotistic writer partner and of their other liaisons: Toby with Adam, the young actor he puts in his Broadway play, Eric platonically with the older Walter and both with rent boy Leo who develops Aids.

As in the novel, there is the thwarted bequest of a much-loved house, even a character named Henry Wilcox (this one knows Trump) but you don’t need to know the book to enjoy this stimulating drama. The inheritance here is something much wider, the need to understand our histories if we are to understand ourselves.

It’s a long play: 7½ hours (seen in two halves on separate evenings or with a matinee on the same day) but Stephen Daldry’s production makes time fly. It is both boldly outrageous and very subtle, like Bob Crowley’s set: a bare platform that change in level but later opens to colourful vistas.

At first it is very funny, then becomes intensely moving. Although verbally explicit, its sex scenes are wittily stylised. In a strong cast Kyle Soller and Andrew Burnap stand out as Eric and Toby, Paul Hilton strikingly doubles Morgan and Walter and Samuel H Levine Adam and Leo, while Vanessa Redgrave makes a late but touching appearance as an elderly lady who looks after the house and whose son is buried nearby, along with many who died there.

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