by Charles Dyer.
Jermyn Street Theatre 16b Jermyn Street SW1Y 6ST To 2 June 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7287 2875.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 May.
Brittle necessity in confined relationship played with supreme skill.
One part of Jermyn Street’s policy is reviving forgotten plays. It’s easy to assume the main effect will be to make clear why they’ve been forgotten, through the strange process by which something seized on with enthusiasm in its time becomes unwatchable.
Though nothing’s unwatchable when acted by Linda Marlowe and Jasper Britton. The play is set in the cramped attic where Mammles and son live their enclosed lives, she bedridden after years as a missionary, able to see through the window only via a mirror, he acting as what would now be her carer, amusing himself by adopting characters and voices as he checks the daily routine listed on the wall of the cluttered room. Her elegant-looking bed contrasts the basic equipment and detritus that’s accumulated around the bedroom/kitchen.
The coy private language (“mammles” indeed) and stylised dialogue, suggests a time (1971) when linguistic flourishes were in fashion, however cluttered they now seem.
The sub-Virginia Woolf? games-playing, the sub-Beckett hostile yet inseparable pair, are symptoms of a time long gone. Yet, progressively, Dyer’s hand emerges with its individual colouring as the play proceeds, moving swiftly and smoothly in Gene David Kirk’s revival. Her bitterness and control, his search for the identity denied by not knowing his father’s, leads to the desperate prising-open of Mammles’ clasped trunk as a scratchy 78rpm record plays Elgar’s “Land of Hope and Glory” to cover her use of the bedpan.
To this all the glory has come; her last days, post-Empire, spent stuffed into an attic, he adopting an incongruous admiral’s costume, hope for the future stifled as he won’t propose to the one other woman he knows, with suggestions that anyway his sexuality doesn’t lie along marriage lines.
It’s a period piece, set in shadows of mid-century English experience sidelined as times changed (Adam works weekdays in a museum), rather than a classic, but worth a look from the curious. Its performers are worth a look under any circumstances, and if the Beckett estate can be persuaded, Marlowe’s Hamm and Britton’s Clov could play an Endgame as neat repertory companion to Mother Adam.
Mammles: Linda Marlowe.
Adam: Jasper Britton.
Director: Gene David Kirk.
Designer: Cherry Truluck.
Lighting/Sound: Phil Hewitt.
Musical Director: Luke Bateman.
Assistant designer: Alberta Jones.