Mother of Him review Park Theatre
PUBLISHED: 11:38 27 September 2019
Tracy-Ann Oberman gives a bravura performance as a single mum struggling to come to terms with her teenage son's horrific crime
First seen a decade ago, British based Canadian playwright Evan Placey's debut play has lost none of its stark immediacy in this timely revival.
Set in a snowy Toronto in the late 90s, the play never leaves the Kapowiitz household where single mother Brenda struggles to come to terms with teenage son Matthew's conviction for triple rape.
With the paparazzi camped outside and Matthew under house arrest, Brenda is fighting for her son to be sentenced as a child while at the same time fearing she has raised a monster.
Tracey-Ann Oberman gives a bravura performance as Brenda, capturing the anger, guilt and sheer incomprehension triggered by Matthew's catastrophic fall from grace. Why did he do it?
The play provides no definite answers. We never learn Matthew's sentence. And he remains a rather bland character who refuses to articulate his feelings. But that's the point Placey wants to make. Instant judgements informed by crass radio phone-ins on absent fathers or adolescent boys and porn-culture are unlikely to provide a foundation for deeper understanding.
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Placey's dialogue is bracing and credible as it makes plain that this nightmare could happen to any mother.
Brenda happens to be a successful if overstretched Jewish businesswoman who remains committed to passing on solid values to her children even in such impossible circumstances. The Hanukkah scene in which a candle from her younger son's recent birthday party is stuck on top of their Menorah because the proper candles have been forgotten is particularly touching.
Max Lindsay's production generates claustrophobia and a sense of siege and Lee Newby's grey-blocks set drains colour literally and metaphorically.
There are a few witty moments - very few as you'd expect given the subject matter - and the cool visuals keep engagement at a distance, perhaps too much distance.
Scott Folan's goofy Matthew is appropriately inscrutable. Matt Goldberg as Jason brilliantly captures a younger sibling's torn loyalties. There is excellent support from Simon Hepworth as Robert, Matthew's lawyer.
As a woman desperately trying to hold her family together, Oberman leaves a lasting impression.