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A maelstrom of raw emotion and shrewd social comment.

Jack was an architect.

His son, Rob, inherited the house Jack built. Rob and his wife, Kate, are architects too. Their daughter Becky was an architectural student - a veritable dynasty. But Becky has dropped out; the house has started to crack; and Kate & Rob’s other daughter, Natalie, has gone into labour. Now Becky, caught up in the worldwide Occupy protests, is missing.

As their world crumbles around them Rob retreats into his fantasy computer games, his heroic avatar fearlessly battling dragons. Kate battles the real life challenges facing the family: searching for her daughter on the internet and texting birthing advice to Natalie whilst seeking expert opinion on how to save the house.

And trolls, it turns out, are not just fantasy monsters…

"A pitch perfect piece of theatre. I cannot recommend this highly enough." Fringe Review ★★★★★

Developed with support from North Devon Theatres, Bristol Ferment and Beaford Arts, the production won the Creative Award and Five Star reviews at Prague Fringe Festival 2013 and Best Original Piece and Best Actress at Reading Fringe Festival.

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promo video

technical details:

get-in 2 hours
performance 60 minutes - no interval;
get-out 45 minutes;
performance area 5m x 5m x 3m height - the production can be presented end-on, or arena;
lighting in theatres - warm cover, preferably with a gobo break-up; in community venues we need access to a 13 amp socket for the small lighting rig and sound system that we carry;
sound & projection self-operated from on stage;
ancillary work we're more than happy to lead post-show discussions and we offer a menu of complementary workshops;
availability current



Low Down

When an architect couple's house begins to crack, so do the strong foundations of their family.

A mother and a father (Rob and Kate) struggle to come to terms with the social idealism of a wayward, rebellious daughter who has gone 'off radar'. While their other daughter is about to have her first child and make Rob and Kate grandparents, they must consider the possibility of losing the home Rob's own father, Jack, built.


Somehow this show has itself slipped off the radar of the Festival buzz. How this has happened I don't know, but to say this is top Fringe fare would be an horrendous understatement. Bill Buffery and Gill Nathanson have painstakingly (according to their programme) put together a pitch perfect piece of theatre. In the programme they ask that the audience actually get in touch with them afterwards to tell them how the play 'worked' on them. This could make one think that they are about to watch a show which is going to come off as self consciously worthy, but this is far from the truth. I was readying my eager response to their humble request as soon as the curtain fell. The request to give feedback is in order that they may be more aware of exactly what they have achieved after all the caring time they have spent raising this very intelligent 'child' of theirs and how they may improve on their hard work.

It would be an exercise in futility to attempt to pick this play apart and say where it could be better, as they seem to have successfully absorbed all previous critiques and compliments to create exactly the play they wanted. In keeping with the theme of the play however I have an inkling that rather than seeking 'perfection' they are making plans for a more beautiful and permanent revolution.

The show develops in much the same way as the 'Play for Today' shows did on English television throughout the 70s and 80s (Bill was indeed involved in this series at one point). From a seemingly natural and homely scenario we are slowly hippy dipped into a swirling, sometimes surreal maelstrom of raw emotion and shrewd social comment.

Bill and Gill convincingly play various characters in The House Jack Built. Gill's transformation into her daughter is spectacular. When parents mimic their teenage children it is usually exaggerated and so far off base it's not even funny, but when Gill (and Bill) shift character to become their missing offspring it is with such superb insight and subtlety one has to wonder if they didn't in fact record these exact events while they were happening in their very own lives. It is hard to tell if they are acting as a conduit for their former, idealistic selves or for their own children. And as for their portrayal of an aging and loving married couple on the verge of breakdown, their consummate professionalism as actors (Bill cutting his teeth at The Royal Shakespeare Company and Gill an experienced drama teacher and television actress) pervades every word of every scene.

One almost feels like they are writing the story as they perform, directing each other with every movement and glance. I walked away thinking to myself, 'This is how the grown ups do it.'

I cannot recommend this highly enough. I am now going to write to Bill and Gill and tell them directly how their play ‘worked’ on me; it will of course be different for everyone, but believe me, it does work.
Michael Rowland, FringeReview

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"Dragon fighting or dippy connectivity?"


A fortunate few were in the right place at the right time last night – at the Bike Shed experiencing stunning live theatre. Multistory – a Devon based company - presented The House that Jack Built, a play a couple of years in development, and the latest incarnation is a cracker.

Live theatre can be a lottery. You walk into the auditorium abuzz with anticipation, precautionary drink in hand – ordeal or delight tonight? The lights go down, the actors move into role. You know within a minute. If you're lucky they grab your focus and you're away in another world. Last night everyone was a winner.

Multistory's performers – Bill Buffery and Gill Nathanson - have considerable theatrical pedigrees and it is fantastic to see professionals of this calibre at my local theatre. These actors could be padding out their pensions through screen appearances. Instead, they're performing live.

The House that Jack Built is a story about an ordinary family, a complex tapestry weaving threads of traditions, transitions and tensions. The warp is the temporal context. The play is rooted in and a reflection on a specific era – the latter part of the 20th century and the first decades of the 21st. The spatial context is vaguer. The eponymous house is an essential character but its location is non-specific, the wider community more cyber than suburbia.

The show is stylishly staged. The set acts as a mega computer screen and multifunctional space with perceptible overtones of the altar and the operating table. The actors are efficient in white and manage changes of role, sound effects, graphic projections and props with practised switch flicks and minimal interruptions to flow.

These actors are turbo charged and rattle out the story with amazing energy and pace. The script is dazzlingly clever – if one could eat the words, it would be fine dining. Concentration is required. Switch off for a moment and you've missed out. The major roles are Rob (Buffery) and Kate (Nathanson) – a marital and professional partnership. Their lives, house, order books and bank balance are verging on empty and cracks and crumblings are creeping in. But they're not going down without a fight – whether it's dragons, dodgy builders, Scottish doctors or errant daughters.

The House that Jack Built oozes skill and sensitivity. The baby boomers will recognise themselves – as will their parents, children and (yes, it's that stage of life) grandchildren. It's a subtle and sharp piece of social commentary. This is brilliant writing but maybe a tad cerebral. There are both humour and poignancy but the balance between cognition and emotion is possibly slightly skewed. Perhaps performers of such skill could move their audience to bigger laughs and wetter tears?

Go judge for yourself – grab a seat at a great show.
Anna Marks, remotegoat

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Kate urges Rob to pull himslef together brochure image for Almost Heaven they read his manuscript She acts oput part of the Nimrod story

photos by Guy Harrop

brochure copy

Their house is cracking, the foundations crumbling. One of their daughters is missing, the other about to give birth. It’s time for Rob and Kate to talk. But as Rob retreats into his fantasy video games, Kate is left battling for the future of the family.

"A pitch perfect piece of theatre. From a seemingly natural and homely scenario we are slowly hippy dipped into a swirling, sometimes surreal maelstrom of raw emotion and shrewd social comment. I cannot recommend this highly enough."