To mark the reopening of Lauderdale House in Highgate, a number of play readings have been taking place. One of these is Finding the Burnett Heart, a play by Paul Elliot which has already enjoyed success in America. Those taking part included Michael Pennington, Lizzie Roper, Joshua Elliot and James Doherty; the reading was directed by Christian Durham.
The play is set in a middle-American home, where a grandfather, James Burnett, and a teenage grandson, Tyler, are forced to share a room. Initially they bicker and fight, finding it hard to reconcile their differing views despite the best attempts of Tyler’s mother, Grace, to mediate. It doesn’t help that Tyler’s father and James’s son, Robert, has his own issues with his father.
The crisis of the play comes when Tyler reveals to his family – including his bigoted grandfather – that he is gay. From then, things go in rather unexpected directions and characters developed in ways I hadn’t imagined. The relationship between James and Tyler was particularly powerfully drawn.
Though this was a staged reading, with no set and the actors performing with scripts in hand, I was completely absorbed throughout and would be very interested to see a full production of this fine play.