Royal Court at the Ambassadors
Tough guy Toilane has had it up to here with his mouthy mother who won't stop hectoring him. Outraged by his insensitivity, she turns on him. "I happen to love the sound of my voice. I think it's very nice and I happen to live alone and I happen to need to talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and don't nobody say nothing because I am talking and I'm gonna talk and talk until our feet freeze ..."
As played by a wonderfully blowsy Lynda Baron, the speech is not only very funny, it speaks volumes about her character and shines a welcome comic light on Judith Thompson's predominantly dark, moody drama of maternal crises, a paternity suit and simmering sibling rivalry. A crass production might resort to a burst of Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" but there's no such oversimplification in Nancy Meckler's production for Shared Experience.
The central characters are beset by dreams and memories that hold them in a nightmarish grip. The past is no foreign country but a troubled land constantly being furrowed. Initially isolated scenes gradually begin to cohere as Thompson draws the dramatic net around her characters with scenes built around dashed childhood hopes and unfulfilled parental expectations.
Hopeful but resentful Mercy arrives on the doorstep of her beautiful sister Dee, who initially doesn't recognise her. Dee is in a state of post-coital confusion having slept with Toilane (Ian Dunn), the childish but dangerous building superintendent who threatens to ruin their lives, already muddied by the fact that she is vacillating between ejecting and racing after her ex-husband, Mack.
Thompson is ploughing fertile territory, but there is a looseness about the structure which punctures the play. Monologues and memory scenes allude to her guiding themes, but too often things ramble. The second act pursues a straighter narrative line in an attempt to tie things together more securely, but that creates its own problems. Character and structure should be indivisible, but here the two become separated as things become plot- heavy.
Although the set is dominated by a beautiful Abstract Expressionist backdrop, the bald design doesn't help. The staging too is spartan but Meckler coaxes brave, boldly physical performances from her well-cast company. Geraldine Somerville is convincing as Dee, beautifully shading her difficult descent from hope to painful despair. Kerry Fox throws caution to the winds as gauche Mercy, whether yelling hilariously at her sister for denigrating TV which "has literally saved my life" or pleading passionately for love while tearing up a Toronto newspaper. Thompson writes grateful, compassionate roles for actors, but even this cast can't quite solder the play's diffuse elements together.
To 21 March. Box office 0171-565 5000Reuse content