This play explores what happens when the forces of the outside world begin to burrow into their homeBecca Nichols

For a play with such thematically challenging subject matter, the Fletcher Players’ production of ‘The House They Grew Up In’ is surprisingly warm and optimistic. Daniel (Alfred Leigh) and Peppy (Anna Bullard) are siblings who are strangely removed from the outside world, and the play explores what happens when the forces of that outside world begin to burrow into their South-East London home.

Peppy is very reliant on looking after Daniel because it gives her purpose, underpinning a value-system which threatens to collapse at any moment. Her front of firmness barely conceals the truth of vulnerability behind. Daniel’s unusual friendship with eight-year old Ben (Emily Beck) sends the events of the play spiralling out of control after Ben comes to visit the siblings' home.

Instead of choosing to dwell on the matter of fact bleakness of the events at hand, director Joe Foye opts to turn the audience’s attention to the more human elements of the play. Ben’s childlike fixation with Daniel’s eidetic memory makes his unusual condition into something of a parlour trick. What could have easily been an insensitive treatment of Daniel’s disability is portrayed with sensitivity and warmth. Ben is the curious spectator to Daniel’s incredible cognitive faculties, and Daniel functions as a kind of distant guardian, present insofar as it is possible to be given his underlying condition. Largely absent from the world, Ben teases out of him an emotive presence. Their friendship is partly what characterises the play’s outlook on how we respond to setbacks.

"director Joe Foye opts to turn the audience’s attention to the more human elements of the play"

Anna Bullard’s performance as Peppy is at once considered and charged, the energy that she brings to the role evokes the sense that she acts as a counter to sibling Daniel, throwing constant torrents of energy at him. There is no filter to Peppy’s persona, and Bullard brings a genuine fraught quality to a role that in the wrong hands might have come off as overcooked and contrived. Her Peppy is a remarkably convincing portrayal of a character straining to keep control of her family unit, as it gives her just enough of a sense of purpose to keep her own inner demons at bay. Her punchline? That she’s a wonderful person who never got the chance to be wonderful. Bullard brings a glorious range to the role.

Anna Bullard's performance as Peppy is at once considered and chargedBecca Nichols

Alfred Leigh is also excellent as Daniel, making much of a quiet role that is thin on dialogue. Leigh gives a certain frankness to the role, and though we don’t hear much from him, there’s a certain manner in which he cultivates the character’s thought process such that it fills the space where dialogue is absent. Emily Beck provides a very believable portrayal of a young boy who is both the catalyst and the emotional centre for the later events in the play.


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I enjoyed hearing about where the inspiration for the play came from as I chatted to director Joe Foye; he watched an earlier production of the play at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre and decided he wanted to bring it to the Cambridge stage. He describes Peppy as “a great female character because she doesn’t fall into any one stereotype, and so she’s fun to explore”. His excitement about the play is clear: this will surely make for a thoroughly enjoyable and emotionally-charged viewing experience.

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