Martina Laird (Susan) and Matthew Wait (Frank) in Inheritance
David Hargreaves, Matthew Wait, Steven Hillman, Melanie Hill, Martina Laird
Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Lidl: Mike Packer uses these familiar shopping bags
to punctuate the impact of the recession on an ordinary family from Gateshead, in his new play,
We meet the central character, Harry (David Hargreaves), coping with a recent diagnosis of cancer.
He’s concerned about the inheritance he can leave his sons and sees the only option is to set aside
his socialist convictions and finally exercise his ‘right to buy’ the council house he’s lived in for 50
Initially laugh out loud funny and full of energy, we follow the family’s excitement about investing
in this rosy, financial future. Youngest son Frank (Matthew Wait) and his estate agent wife Susan
(Martina Laird) see a life of holidays, loft conversions and private schooling for the kids. Oldest son
Terry (Steven Hillman) and wife Los (Melanie Hill) just want to be at the party, planning for no more
than the next pack of cigarettes and line of coke.
References to the last few years really resound with the audience; laughter is darkly premonitory
as Susan proclaims the benefit of 120% mortgages, the easy money mentality and the security of
banking with Northern Rock.
Then the market crashes.
David Hargreaves’ performance, as Harry realises he’s set to lose his property, is heart wrenching. In
turns angry, grief stricken and confused, it’s clear to all, even his selfish and greedy family, that this
is no longer about financial security, but is as much about his life and the memories that his home symbolises.
The second act presents the new reality of the situation. The Live Theatre’s small stage serves to
emphasize the change in Harry’s home. He is in a poky, one-bedroom flat, sparsely furnished and
lacking any home comforts. He’s got a state of the art flat screen television and DVD player that he
can’t work. Watching David Hargreaves present Harry’s breakdown in this new world is deeply sad –
I’d defy anyone to watch this without verging on tears.
Harry is a shell of his former self, dependent and childlike, made this way by the actions of his own
family. Their guilt is apparent but none are able to change their ways.
His sons are struggling to make ends meet and now have carer responsibility for their father –
though they’ll only do that if he signs the carer form to release the benefit payment. This approach
to making the right choice, but only for financial gain is difficult to watch, but sadly has its roots
firmly in reality.
Performances all round are emotive: hilariously inappropriate celebrations from Los when she
secures a new council house that’s still not big enough to save Harry from his current hell, and
the awkwardness of watching Frank and Terry squabble about cash like little kids in front of their
watery-eyed, bewildered father.
Inheritance is a play that asks the question: where should we place value, should we look towards
property, employment, health, or family?
The answer it seems is simply to do the right thing, whatever that is, and the rest should work out:
unless there’s another economic crash of course.
- Linda Jameson
The Comedy of Errors, Theatre Royal, Newcastle
Richard III, Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield
Matilda, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Inheritance, Live Theatre, Newcastle
Beautiful Burnout, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Love,Love,Love, Royal Exchange, Manchester
The Cherry Orchard, Birmingham Rep, Birmingham
A Month in the Country, Festival Theatre, Chichester