Skip to content

Not to be missed: The Hills of California!

Photo: Mark Douet

THE HILLS OF CALIFORNIA***** (Harold Pinter Theatre, London until 15.6.2024)

Jez Butterworth (who gave us Jerusalem) has written another stupendously fine play. Reunited with Sam Mendes who directs this new play, Butterworth fills the stage with drama and well-realised characters.

Set in a guest house (ironically called Sea View although it is situated nowhere near the sea) in Blackpool in the heatwave of 1976, we meet the three sisters who have come home to bid farewell to their mother, Veronica, who is dying of cancer in her room upstairs.  There is the stay-at-home daughter, Jill (Helena Wilson), her lively sister Ruby (Ophelia Lovibond) and her angry sister Gloria (Leanne Best).  While there are hints that an extra dose of morphine would finish off Veronica who is in pain, Jill insists that they await the arrival of their sister who went to Hollywood, Joan (Laura Donnelly).

There is a flash back to the 1950s where we find Veronica (Laura Donnelly) coaching her four daughters to perform like the Andrews Sisters. They perform to a talent scout but only Joan is picked to go to Hollywood.  The young sisters are played by Nancy Allsop as Gloria, Nicola Turner as Jill, Sophia Ally as Ruby and Lara Mcdonnell as Joan.

The play develops and secrets come out.  Although the ending is a bit bizarre, the characters are beautifully depicted in Butterworth’s writing and directing by Mendes.  The actresses are brought to life individually and as an ensemble working together, with Laura Donnelly particularly outstanding as the younger Veronica and later Joan.

The set is superb, too.  Starting as a realistic portrayal of a 70s guest house, it spins around to show the kitchen of the same gust house in the 1950s with the young sisters and their mother.

Well worth a visit!

Carlie Newman
Back To Top