Force Majeure

Force Majeure by Tim Price – Donmar Warehouse, London

Adapted from Ruben Östlund’s film, Force Majeure is an exercise in family breakdown set among a group of well-off Swedes on a skiing holiday. Threatened with a avalanche, heading straight for his wife and two children, Tomas (Rory Kinnear) grabs his phone and runs. His wife Ebba (Lyndsey Marshall) grabs the children and dives under the table. The play deals with the consequences of his instincts, and his refusal to admit what happened. Ebba and Tomas’s marriage is clearly strained before this incident. He spends all his time on work, leaving her to manage the children, who he doesn’t really know. The combination of an unfamilar setting and a sudden crisis brings it all tumbling down. Kinnear is the master of tight lipped denial, and his casting is very good. He is excellent at being superior while entirely in the wrong. Marshall is equally good, combining steeliness and vulnerability. Their children, Vera and Harry played on this occasion by Bo Bragason and Harry Hunt, are all too recognisable as a sarcastic teen and a wired pre-teen.

Michael Longhurst’s production makes creditable efforts to bring ski slopes to Covent Garden. The stage is covered in white matting, and cast members ski across its rake with admirable control. The otherworldy neon of ski gear, and the somewhat hellish Euro-dance bar atmosphere is evocative and convincing. It’s not clear, though, that this particular film needed a stage adaptation. The script is not entirely convincing, resorting to unlikely stereotype characters as foils for Tomas and Ebba – a blokeish mate separated from his wife (Sule Rimi) and a liberated swinger (Natalie Armin). Kinnear delivers his eventual meltdown as both funny and pitiable, but the ending seems contrived and the message murky. However, the evening is an enjoyable spectacle, and includes neat touches such as the ever-present hotel staff who interrupt every significant scene trying to get their work done, their minimum wages lives contrasting grimly with the privileged families they look after.

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