Tex Mex with Plenty of Spice

Article excerpt

Byline: NICHOLAS DE JONGH

The Late Henry Moss THEATRE Almeida IT MAY sound like a scene from Agatha Christie, what with the covered corpse of Henry Moss, whose estranged, younger son Ray hardly conceals suspicions about a cover-up over his father's death in a New Mexican hovel. Yet Sam Shepard's thrilling new play, a family drama streaked with vintage Shepardian humour and acted up to the hilt by a remarkable company in Michael Attenborough's tense production, has no relation to the whodunnit.

The plot may concentrate on showing what happens to Ray while doggedly pursuing the truth about his alcoholic father's demise, but Henry's death proves a red herring. The excitement generated is of the cerebral sort, as the play dreamily flows between the zones of recent past and the present.

Ray's concern, it transpires, is to lay the family's unappeased ghosts before his brother, Earl, not to lay his hated father to rest.

This pattern is true to Shepard's plays about families, where relations are consumed by secrets and hostilities, with brothers pitched against each other in hatred. The past, for Shepard, is another country, policed by border guards who only admit visitors back home at a high emotional price. So too is it here, amid designer Robert Jones's evocation of Henry's dilapidated home. …