/My Name is Lucy Barton, Bridge Theatre (2018)

My Name is Lucy Barton, Bridge Theatre (2018)


I cannot even begin to tell you how uplifting it was to see three-time Academy Award nominee Laura Linney at the Bridge Theatre delivering Elizabeth Strout’s book, My Name is Lucy Barton, which was aptly adapted for the stage by Rona Munro. Tickets sold out fast for Linney and so far the Bridge Theatre has been receiving great reviews ever since its pioneering production, Julius Caesar (read my review here) was staged. I didn’t stop myself from booking a seat for the production after it, Nightfall (my review here) written by Barney Norris with cast actor, Ophelia Lovibond. And here I am again regaling my positive feelings for the Bridge Theatre.

Laura Linney as Lucy-Barton. Photo by Manuel Harlan.
Laura Linney as Lucy-Barton. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Munro’s adaptation is close to Lucy Barton’s own voice speaking from a first person narrative, and Strout admits in an email exchange with Munro that she once envisioned Linney ‘behind the podium’ reciting the words she had written for Lucy Barton’s character. Some people may have concerns about Linney taking up the entire, rather large, stage of the Bridge, yet Linney is a provider. Walking around the stage, she possesses it like she knows the space, owning those crisp, sentimental and personal lines written by Strout. Linney’s close connection, ease, and efficiency with the text seemed to make the stage appear smaller, which is a good sign.

Richard Eyre’s production is clean, slick and contemporary. The stage is but a low down chair, hospital bed and a bed table beside it. Designer Bob Crowley keeps it simple, so more emphasis can be addressed through Linney in her comfortable attire, her cozy lilac blue cotton (could be it be cashmere?) cardigan. Video designer, Luke Halls and associate video designer, Zakk Hein display beautiful imagery of Manhattan with distilled photographs of the Chrysler Building onto Lucy Barton’s hospital window. It swiftly focuses on open green fields of soybeans and corn whenever Linney takes us through Lucy Barton’s scene-to-scene storytelling of her past, growing up impoverished in Amgash, Illinois with two siblings and her domestically abusive parents.

Laura Linney as Lucy-Barton. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Without giving the plot away, which is definitely worth seeing if you can get a day return ticket, Lucy Barton’s character shares her detailed and inescapable experience of being locked up in a truck while her siblings went to school during her childhood, how she fled Illinois to be free from her uncompromising and neglectful parents and pursued her dreams – becoming a successful writer in New York. The play evolves over nine weeks in a hospital in a space of 90 minutes (no interval) which includes a visitation from her rather indifferent mother. Linney pours a highly pitched middle America accent whenever she depicts Lucy’s stubborn and cold-toned mother. Linney weaves between Lucy’s vulnerable character and Lucy’s mother like it’s second nature. Here is an example of wonderful writing relayed by an expert performance artist. Any opportunity to see Laura Linney live should be embraced fast. And if you can’t see Linney, then at least take the time to read one, or all, of Strout’s books. I’m currently reading Anything Is Possible (2018) and I’ve having difficulty putting it down.

My Name is Lucy Barton is now showing at the Bridge Theatre until 23 June. Tickets available online here.

(I purchased a ticket to review the show.)