Mother Adam, Jermyn Street Theatre, London
Friday 18 May 2012
Resplendent in a tangerine toque and monitoring her middle-aged son with a manipulative, faux-beaten-dog wariness, Linda Marlowe's marvellous Mammles looks like the lost love child of Gloria Swanson and Albert Steptoe in Gene David Kirk's revelatory and richly entertaining revival of Mother Adam (1971).
The piece is one of the so-called “Lonely Trilogy” by the great and under-valued Charles Dyer. The most frequently performed is Rattle of a Simple Man but this production, the first significant staging since 1973, firmly establishes Mother Adam as both the most wildly and weirdly comic and the most touching of the trio.
Dyer's pair could give the Hamm and Clov of Beckett's Endgame a run for their money in the claustrophobic co-dependency department. Mammles was once a missionary in India but now in this “shattered attic” (a cluttered eyrie of evocative memorabilia in Cherry Truluck's excellent design), she is bedridden, crippled by arthritis, and reduced to sneering at the world via an angled mirror. For the last fifteen years, her son Adam, a downwardly mobile museum curator, has danced attendance upon her.
An unimaginative director would have cast one of nature's mummy's boys in the role of this deeply frustrated (and conceivably virginal) character whom “Mrs God” has further unmanned by keeping the secret of his paternity (or so she claims) locked in her Edwardian trunk and by taunting him with his intrepid forebears' allegedly unfailing knack of getting themselves horribly martyred.
But you somehow feel that the desire to wear a pinny is not in the genes of the burly, brilliant Jasper Britton. The desperation comes over all the more powerfully. In a dazzling tour de force of tragicomic acting, his Adam shows you a man who can only survive by turning the religious and domestic rituals of a typical Sunday into a mad vaudeville of private language baby-talk (“cross your huddle and hope to daddle?”), torrential cascades of Joycean word-play (“They are not many the silked-loined years”) and antic impersonations of unctuous vicars and a whole gallery of authority figures.
Relishing the chewy bravura of Dyer's language, the endlessly elastic Britton convinces you that there is thwarted genius in Adam who here, at one point, brews tea by shaking the pot as though it were Mammles's neck and, at another, cuts her toe nails with a tenderly intimate absorption. Like Gene David Kirk's beautifully sensitive direction, the performance reminds you that the “game” is there to support and stimulate Mammles as well as challenge her.
To June 2; 0207 287 2875
auctionThe first 23 lots have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
healthJames Bond's alcohol consumption puts him at 'high risk' of cirrhosis, tremors... and impotence
musicPolice chief rejects rappers' claims that his work is as dangerous as law enforcement or military service
comedy'Fresh Meat' star sees off stiff competition from Alan Carr, David Mitchell, Graham Norton, Lee Mack and Sarah Millican to win top prize
tvSpoiler alert: Find out the result of a heated final show
Beatles rush out 'bootleg' album to defy EU copyright law
Harvey Weinstein reveals his secret weapon on-set
Now that an oil trader's drinking has got him sacked, will we all have to make do with an afternoon latte?
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Idris Elba get nods for Best Actor, which no black Brit has ever won
Geoffrey Macnab reviews The Desolation of Smaug - the meat in Peter Jackson's Hobbit sandwich
peopleWhat advice would David Cameron give to his younger self?
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ sign language interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute in Soweto
- 2 Mystery of Epping Forest 'big cat' is solved
- 3 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 4 Australia incest case: Severely deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
- 5 Physicists discover 'clearest evidence yet' that the Universe is a hologram
- < Previous
- Next >