The play is set entirely in a bedroom, dominated by a large double bed. This is the bedroom where Tony (David Horovitz) and Sheila (Alison Steadman) wait for Tony’s brother Reggie (David Cardy) and his wife Elizabeth (Rula Lenska). They will all be attending the funeral of Louis, Tony’s father. Around fifty years ago, Louis himself spent time in this bedroom – with his wife Bobbie, and his mistress Bella. From the beginning of the play we know that the 5-year old Tony was in this bedroom when he shouldn’t have been, and saw, or heard, something he shouldn’t have.
The play skilfully overlaps the present with the past – as a character from today leaves the room, another from fifty years ago walks in. From my seat, you could see them almost bumping into each other just off-stage. It’s done really nicely, and it makes you compare the warmth and equality of Tony and Sheila’s modern relationship with the everyday cruelty of Louis and Bobbie’s.
Tony is the character the play is centred around, and he is defined in contrast to his bubbly, excitable wife, and his confident, successful brother. David Horovitz effectively shows the insecurities behind his middle-aged curmudgeonly exterior. He is slightly less interesting in the second half however, when his character is thoroughly drunk. Alison Steadman is a wonderful ball of childish energy as Sheila, and Rula Lenska and David Cardy are both very good.
Losing Louis is very smooth and very funny, but I found it a bit mild. In the first half, lots of dark possibilities are brought up, but the writer, Simon Mendes da Costa, chooses not to exploit them in that way. One interesting moment occurs right at the end of the play, where Sheila reveals a potentially negative aspect of her character. But by that time, we are into a mood of reconciliation and closure, so it’s not explored. An enjoyable play that could have been more interesting than it is.