The Mother, Tricycle Theatre, review: ‘Haunting’

Gina McKee as The Mother and William Postlethwaite as The Son in The Mother. Picture: Mark Douet

Gina McKee as The Mother and William Postlethwaite as The Son in The Mother. Picture: Mark Douet - Credit: Archant

Bridget Galton is left reeling by this truth-bending vision of a mother torn apart by love.

Florian Zeller played mind games with his audience in The Father by immersing them in the fractured mind of a dementure patient.

Here we’re living the mental dislocation of middle-aged empty nester Anne, in short scenes replayed with subtle differences, whose subjectivity muddles our grasp of the truth. Played on Mark Bailey’s clinically white minimalist set, in one version Anne is manic, taboo-busting; telling her brusquely dispassionate husband she feels repelled by their daughter, always preferred their son Nick, and dreams of his death.

In another she is subdued, depressive, popping pills ‘to stay alive’ her husband wearily sympathetic.

In both she believes he’s having an affair, and claims she’s been ‘had all the way down the line’ by a society that uses women up then spits them out. We hear the “ungrateful” Nicholas has abandoned her for his new girlfriend, but when he (possibly) returns in the night after a row we see he’s suffocated by her overbearing love.

Does Elodie pursue him and mock the ageing Ann with her sexiness and youth? Or tearfully leave a lovelorn letter that Anne tears up?

Gina McKee charts Anne’s shifting moods with masterful subtlety suggesting humour, bitterness, skittishness and fragility. But if the Father sketched a more universal experience, Anne is an extreme of primal maternal obsession.

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Married at 22, she’s never worked, mentions no friends or family. She’s around my age but I don’t recognise her. She feels a retro idea of modern middle age. What’s more the dislocation has a distancing effect. The piece doesn’t hit home until the end when Anne describes being happiest preparing breakfast before taking the children to school and wonders what was all that for? You’ll reel home vowing to ring your mother more.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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