Polly Stenham's play won allround critical praise when it was first seen at the Royal Court a year ago, not in the main theatre but in the tiny Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, where it quickly became a sellout. Now it's transferred to the relatively large space of the Duke of York's and I'm happy to join the chorus of applause. It's not just a really good play for a 20-year-old writer, but a really good play by anyone's standards. Ninety minutes it lasts, and it's neither too short nor too long -- just right. The author's dialogue really crackles and every line seems in place; but the real quality of the writing is that it tells a story about a dysfunctional family without relying on those familiar tricks of backstory and exposition. The skeletons don't have to pop out of the cupboard because they're rattling away on stage as the characters pick their way through the debris of bottles, glasses, papers, shredded clothes and other remnants of what may once have been well-ordered bourgeois lives. Okay, Chekhov and Ibsen allow their characters to explore the past and tell us what has happened before the play starts. But it's incredibly refreshing to discover a play that proves it isn't always necessary. These characters reveal themselves by what they DO on stage rather than by making explanatory speeches that start 'Do you remember when...?' The opening scene is a good example; two young females are mistreating a third young female who is tied to a chair with a hood over her head. It's a boarding school initiation rite that goes wrong when the victim ends up in hospital and young Mia is sent home in disgrace, threatened with expulsion. But 'home' is hardly the right word; her mother Martha is a posh alcoholic, locked in an incestuous semi-erotic bedroom relationship with her older brother Henry. Father Hugh, now living with his new family in Hong Kong, flies back to bribe the school not to expel Mia. At the end of the play it's Henry, who appears at the beginning as the one person who's able to cope, who disintegrates. These people are from London's posh moneyed classes -- but the playwright has the skill to suggest this by how they talk and behave and what they take for granted, rather than by planting clunky signposts and shorthand labels. As in Pinter, the writing is free of the cliche and clutter of precise dates and places. We know Hugh's flat is in Docklands because Mia wants the key to it, but we're not told where Martha and Henry live. This doesn't matter because we know exactly where we are on the A to Z without a signpost. Polly Stenham also shows a sure touch in the structure of the play, which builds up to a shattering climax. And she knows exactly how to begin and end a scene. There are some delightful micro-moments, such as the one where Martha, pickled as usual, conducts a dialogue with the BT speaking clock. Lindsay Duncan plays the boozy manipulative mother like some fetid scarlet flesh-eating plant, Matt Smith is astonishing as her damaged son, and Hannah Murray is totally plausible as fifteen-year-old Mia. There are two more excellent supporting performances from Catherine Steadman as Mia's older friend Izzy and Julian Wadham as Hugh, the pompous Hong Kong broker. I haven't seen such a convincingly poisonous bunch on stage in the West End since This Is Our Youth with Matt Damon as an odious little drug-pusher. The mother-son relationship conjures up parallels with The Vortex. Coward was 24 when that play was produced, while Polly Stenham is only 20, and I think her play is much the better of the two. Stenham has obviously learned from Tennessee Williams and from Edward Albee without slavishly imitating either of them. The play is directed by Jeremy Herrin, who was responsible for Kwame Kwei-Armah's Statement of Regret at the NT Cottesloe, which also suggested an ability to coax actors into performing outside their usual comfort zones. I saw a preview performance with a much younger audience than the usual West End crowd. They were silent, apart from a few audible gasps in the last scene, but that was only because they were determined not to miss a single line. I should add that the acoustics in the Duke of York's are appalling, so I'd advise people to try to avoid buying seats at the back. I remember seeing Stoppard's Rock n' Roll from the back row of the stalls in this particular theatre, and I had great difficulty making out what was being said on stage.