Doonreagan – Jermyn Street Theatre – Carole Woddis.

Anything to do with Ted Hughes or Sylvia Plath is bound to arouse interest.  So much mystery, distortion, opinion and conjecture surrounds their lives.  And now into that much over-scrutinised picture one must add Assia Wevill.

In this new play by Swedish born translator and academic Ann Henning Jocelyn, Wevill shares centre stage with Hughes in the house they rented together, Doonreagan, in Connemara on the west coast of Ireland after Sylvia Plath’s death.

It was a short moment out of time, one of the happiest Hughes later recalled when with his three-times married Jewish lover and their three children – Nick (later himself to commit suicide), Frieda and Shura, Wevill’s daughter by Hughes – they were able to live a comparatively normal life, away from London gossip, surrounded by the incomparable natural beauties of Ireland.

It would be good to report that out of this fascinating and, one is loath to use the much over-used word in this context, tragic mix of personalities, Henning Jocelyn and director Alex Dmitriev have fashioned an absorbing hour.

Sadly this is not the case.

The 20 year old, now comfortably redecorated tiny Jermyn Street Theatre has seen some remarkable stage miracles in its time.  But this is not one of them

Henning Jocelyn, it turns out, just happens to have lived and be living in Doonreagan and somewhat unbelievably was unaware of the Hughes connection until as late as 2005 when the two Israeli biographers of Wevill, Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev came literally knocking at their door.

Henning Jocelyn writes in a foreword to the script of how she hoped to create not so much a dramatic narrative as an exploration of the effect of environment and place on an individual finding their true self.

Laudable enough but Dmitriev’s 50 minute desperately slow production unfortunately fails to conjure anything like a sufficient sense of Nature for all its `period’ slide projections of Connemara views and even furniture lovingly from the house itself!

Henning Jocelyn’s script is succinct enough, if a little ponderous in parts.  But although she gives us intimations of how heavily Plath’s ghost lies between them and of the emotional and sexual chemistry that drew Hughes to Wevill and vice versa, Henning Jocelyn fails to inform us of Wevill’s later suicide robbing the play, ironically, of dramatic drive and crucially, dramatic context.

Flora Montgomery as Assia, passionate and haunted, almost salvages what emerges as a disappointing attempt to breathe new life into a well ploughed furrow.

Hughes/Plath scholars and aficionados may, however, still find something fruitful in the endeavour.

Doonreagan runs at Jermyn Street Theatre to Sept 21.  See www. jermynstreettheatre.co.uk

Carole Woddis © September, 2013.