Writer: Brendan Murray
Director: Stefan Escreet
Reviewer: Hannah Piercy
The world premiere of Brendan Murray’s family drama is a beautiful thing to watch: a cracking script supported by wonderful performances throughout the cast. Laura Cox as Mum touchingly captures her frailty in every detailed movement: the shuffling walk, the way she gets out of bed, even her mannerisms as she chews a sweet. James Duke as her son Terry is a joy; sarcastic, self-sacrificing and ultimately sympathetic.
The play revolves around a family gathering for Mum’s 75th birthday. The characters are recognisable, family squabbles casting Terry and Muna (Rebecca Todd) as both the adults they are and the children they once were. The similarities between family members, as well as their frequent clashes, are so funny precisely because they are so real. There are moments when you feel you could be watching your own family, ready to step onto the stage to play your rôle among them.
This isn’t an uncomfortable sensation; rather, the production has a strangely comforting atmosphere. Theatre by the Lake’s studio is perfect for the intimate setting of one room in Mum’s house, wonderfully captured in Anna Pilcher Dunn’s detailed set. The real lamps lighting the stage are a particularly nice touch, and Terry’s ‘Keep Calm I’m a Nurse’ mug certainly deserves a mention! But the beautiful visual dynamic of comfort goes beyond this. Moments of peace are conveyed through the actors’ bodies, as Mum leans on Nasir (Alan Suri) during a game of scrabble, or lets Terry and Muna embrace her in an image of the family gathering together.
The great strength of this production is its humanity. The characters are conveyed in all the richness of their frailty, failures and hopes. The ways people communicate, fail to do so, or just fall short of revealing what they really feel, is no small part of both the comedy and the heart-ache of this production. Hilarious, heart-breaking and touchingly real, this is a show which has something to offer for everyone.
Runs until Friday 7th November