Theatre Review: Shallow Slumber at Soho Theatre

Tale of drug abusing mother and her social worker raises difficult questions

Shallow Slumber explores the relationship between a social worker and a young substance-abusing mother.

Events unfold in retrograde, starting with an institutionalised Dawn arriving at Moira’s doorstep on the day of her release from prison, and ending with the harrowing discovery that leads to Dawn’s incarceration and Moira’s parallel downfall.

Olivier award nominee Alexandra Gilbreath as Moira is chameleon-like, switching from haggard, isolated turmoil to unwavering professional optimism with only a suit-jacket and a flick of her fringe. Amy Cudden (Dawn) attacks as challenging a role as a young actor is ever likely to face with guts and intelligence. She presents Dawn as a proud and intelligent young woman, at times ferocious, often heart-breaking, always desperate and destined to fail due to the inward spiral of destruction brought on by poverty and addiction.

The success of this play is that it never dictates the moral high-ground to the audience. Set in traverse, we see each character’s point of view equally and “right” and “wrong” cannot be clearly apportioned to either character. How far should social care intervene? Would Dawn’s problems have come to the state’s attention if she were wealthy? Why do we view social workers as interfering busybodies? A few of the many questions raised by Shallow Slumber which left me arguing with my boyfriend all the way home.

Catch this if you can. (But perhaps don’t take your partner on Valentine’s Day.)

* Shallow Slumber is at Soho Theatre in Dean Street, W1, until February 18, 2012.