Family Album: Synopsis

Cast: 1 male / 4 female plus 2 non-speaking male roles
Running time (approximate):
95 minutes (without interval)
Availability: Family Album is available for both professional and amateur production.
Acting Edition:
Published by Samuel French.

Family Album has three plot-lines set in 1952, 1992 and 2022. The action of these plots weave in and out of each other with events from each period often occurring simultaneously with other timelines. For ease of description, the plots are separated here and listed separately. Unfortunately, this does not give an indication of how the play allows us to see simultaneously how actions and decisions in one time affect and reflect on to the others. It is a play best seen or read.



John Stanton (29, a warehouse supervisor)
Peggy Stanton (27, a housewife)
Sandra Dickens (48, a former teacher)
Alison Stanton-Hicks (40, a freelance graphic designer)
Jess Stanton-Hicks (38, A BBC Researcher)

Two removal men in 1952 and 2022
Family Album is set in the living room of 27 Byfield Crescent, SW19, between 1952 and 2022.

1952 (John & Peggy Stanton)
"Hello, room. Hello, house."

February 1952. Peggy Stanton is overseeing the moving-in day into her new family home. She is married to John, a warehouse supervisor having served as an RAF Airfield Manager during the war, and they have two children, Alison and Richard. Peggy is capably overseeing the furniture being moved in as John arrives at the last and is seen to be a stickler for detail.

The difficulties of the past few years living with Peggy's parents and raising the children are raised and the first cracks in the relationship appear as John is seen to patronise to his wife and will not tolerate his position as head of the household being challenged. He also puts dibs on his step-father's chair as his own with most of the furniture having being given to them by Peggy's parents.

Peggy raises the issue that Sandra seems to be concerned over her weight, which John dismisses as he has little interest in family matters. In his mind Sandra's future is already laid out and that women have it easy. Leave school, find a man, marry and have kids He dismisses the idea the war might have had traumatic effects on the younger generation (or any generation) by dismissing it all as 'mental mumbo-jumbo'.

When Peggy also raises the question of whether John should be quite so quick to punish the children, he asserts his position as the 'man of the house'. Peggy has obviously learnt to quietly cope with this side of John throughout the marriage.

Spring 1952. Peggy has sent the kids off to her parents for the afternoon and is waiting for John to return from golf; he gives the impression he is hobnobbing with senior executives, but Is patently not the social climber he imagines. Peggy asks about Sandra's future, posting out she is a gifted child - far more so than her brother - and that she should be given the chance to go further but no plans have been made for her. John dismisses any suggestion of further education or university, noting she would go to university, then get a job in Woolworths and marry the first man she meets, completely wasting their time and money.

When Peggy tries to argue that Sandra's brother is catered for despite not being as gifted as Sandra, John shuts her down noting that John is a boy and won't get side-tracked whilst Sandra should be left to play with her dolls until she eventually has babies.

A troubled Peggy is left emphasising to herself that Sandra is special.

1992 (Sandra Dickens)
July 1992. Sandra, John and Peggy's daughter, is holding a party for her 10 year daughter, Alison, and struggling to cope whilst waiting for her husband, Jeremy, to arrive. On the phone, he pleads ignorance to the party and is very much an absent father.

She returns to the kitchen to discover trifle everywhere, on the walls and floors. She sends the children outside drawing specific attention to Justin, son of Councillor Penfold. She begins to clean up the off-stage dire mess.

Jeremy calls and Sandra realises he's in a pub with the Welsh drama teacher, Glynis Williams, and will not be coming to the party. As the children's parents arrive, Sandra has an argument with Councillor Penfold about his son's behaviour and heads after him about brandishing her mop. We hear a young girl's voice crying about what Sandra's done to a car, who Alison dismisses as a 'wimp'.

Autumn 1992. Sandra is phoning her family, trying to contact first her brother - who is now a manager at Boots, having never lived up to his father's hopes - and then mother. Eventually speaking to Peggy at her care home, Sandra reveals her marriage has broken down and she has been having difficulties. As she tries to ask for help, it transpires her mother has forgotten who she is talking to during the call, suffering from dementia. In despair, Alison rings off, uncertain of what to do.

Sandra is glimpsed, now an alcoholic, collapsing in front of Alison but insisting she is alright. Later, off-stage, an ambulance is heard to arrive with Alison asked to take the paramedics upstairs to her mum.

2022 (Alison & Jess Stanton-Hicks)
A late November morning. It is moving out day for Sandra's daughter Alison, who unwillingly inherited the family home from Sandra. She and her partner Jess - a research assistant for the BBC - are finishing the packing.

Jess - who comes from a working class, northern background - notes how the former living room has barely been used throughout their stay in the house and has items in it she's never seen before. Alison takes a carving fork and tells of its role in the Sunday dinners of her childhood. She reveals that her father, Jeremy, left Sandra when she was 10 and that they rarely saw her 'bad-tempered' grandfather, who was in a care home. Jess's fond memories of her childhood and family being at direct odds with Alison's largely suppressed experiences.

Alison opens up about her childhood and being raised by a single parent and the breakdown Sandra suffered after the loss of Alison's younger brother, Eddie, from a drug overdose at 18. She recalls at 10 coming home and being locked out, letting herself in and finding her mum unconscious on the bed following a suicide attempt.

An hour or so later. With the removal company, Up Yours, running late, Alison is becoming stressed as Alison wants to leave the house and its memories behind. Jess and her discuss what is being taken the new home - John's chair or 'Grandfather's Throne' as it was dubbed comes up and Alison reveals the fear of John caused children to wet themselves around the room.

Jess remarks she'll miss the house with Alison uncommitted describing it as a haunted house with memories she has been suppressing but which have been slowly coming back with the move.

With everything all but moved out, Alison opened up about mer mother and her alcoholism and how Sandra was seen as a star pupil, but who despite her mother and headteacher's best efforts, never had the support to fulfil her potential, ending up a child of the '60s and later pregnant and an unfulfilled mother and house-wife.

And then the memory of the birthday party comes back and all the effort Sandra had put into it, even making a huge trifle - unfortunately laced with LSD, which had made the kids either sick or hyper. She recalls Councillor Penfold and her mother almost at blows and Sandra smashing the headlights of his new Mercedes. All brought back by the removal van company name reminding her of her mother's words to the Councillor.

Jess and the removal men leave and Alison finds herself momentarily alone in the house.

"Goodbye, room. Goodbye, house."

Synopsis by Simon Murgatroyd and © Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.