Set on the slopes of the Alps, Force Majeure depicts the events of a family holiday that doesn’t quite go to plan. The skiing story has been adapted for stage by Tim Price, and is based on a film by Ruben Östlund. Due to its environment being difficult to recreate, this version, directed by Michael Longhurst, was in obvious need of some magic, and it appears that the Donmar Theatre works wonders once again.
Being a bit of an eclectic performance from the outset, we are first introduced to Tomas (Rory Kinnear) and Ebba (Lyndsey Marshal), along with their two children, Vera (Florence Hunt) and Harry (Henry Hunt). Despite being determined to have a great time on their trip, their optimism rapidly descends as the reality of spending time away with family dawns on them. Their accurate perception of such holiday is uncanny, and, while largely hilarious, is never too far from the truth, even down to the reactions of the stereotypical photo scam.
During their first day on the vast blanket of white, a catastrophe falls upon the family in the form of an avalanche, whereby the room is flooded with clouds of 'dust' from the snowstorm, following a huge booming noise, and waves of cold air. It's certainly memorable for the audience, and unexpected for those that aren't familiar with the narrative already. This event poses conundrums for Tomas and Ebba, who cannot seem to decide mutually where each of them were at the time, subsequently questioning moral values, and trust in each other.
It appears that what may be lost from the lack of real snow covered mountains, is made up for in the clever staging, and highly comedic script. The concept of having a lift in the back wall is intriguing, as it adds an unusual extra dynamic to the show, particularly for bringing in new characters, or for costume changes. In addition, a section of the stage rotates to become the bed in their hotel room, which makes perfect use of the small theatre, and does the job well enough. The stage itself is set on a slope, and made so the cast can properly ski their way down, past the audience: this was wonderful when it happened, and would’ve really enjoyed it had there been more!
The cast are very commendable. Siena Kelly and Sule Rimi play Jenny and Mats respectively, and the reoccurring brief moments featuring Raffaello Degruttola as the cleaner are placed for the ideal dose of laughter. Lyndsey Marshal does an excellent job as Ebba, displaying her versatile talent as an actor when becoming her relatable character. Tomas has many layers too, and Rory Kinnear does well to explore that throughout the piece. Florence Hunt as Vera accurately presents the resentment of interaction as a teenager, yet also the emotional foundations of looking after her younger brother, and supporting the family, which shows skill in her craft. The role of Harry is taken on by Henry Hunt, who does a great job too, bringing the four together to create something that ultimately is lighthearted and funny, yet fairly thought provoking.
That being said, the narrative is definitely limited, and the show as a whole perhaps didn't need to be so long. The pace slows a little before the interval, whereby it feels as if there is a lack of development in the plot, and the concept of the ending seems a bit predictable, but part of that is the reason it's so loveable. However, it would have been fantastic if the storyline was developed to include more of the perspective of the children, so they are able to express themselves further, rather than the entire focus being on the couple's marriage. In addition, there are instances that could potentially be areas that were started, but left unexplored, such as Ebba's interest in what life would be like with another man, that may have offered something extra.
It is packed with bad language (notably being yelled into the mountainous void), so something to consider when deciding who to bring along.
With its deep bass sounds to emulate the snowy atmosphere, and special effects, this piece takes you on a memorable journey through the Alps, watching the events of an interesting family holiday take place, and one that changes the way they are. Force Majeure gets you laughing and thinking in one.