THE ARTIST MAN AND THE MOTHER WOMAN
by Morna Pearson.
Traverse Theatre (Traverse 1) Cambridge Street To 17 November 2012.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 November.
A limited palette skilfully applied.
Choosing keenly between two flavours of the red-coloured jam filling the kitchen cupboard, Geoffrey slips off to school, hair carefully slicked into shape by his mother. He may seem too big for such childish treats and treatment and he is. For Geoffrey is a teacher.
Whatever he can teach about art doesn’t come from life. The neutral furnishings of Anthony Lamble’s set declare the bland unimaginative life he leads at home with mother Edie. The bedroom is off-stage, up a staircase barely glimpsed. But something sets Geoffrey, at last, to a search for “ain o’ these wife thingies”.
Though Morna Pearson takes her title from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, with its opposition of male artistic endeavour and female family-formation, Geoffrey’s more from the asexual demureness of J M Barrie.
He starts at the supermarket, while buying Ribena; his advert there brings sexually voracious and dog-loving women, before Clara, who’s searching less for a significant other than a sense of significance in herself. But possessive Edie sees her as a threat.
In this gothic comedy, where neighbour Thomas (blithe Lewis Howden, surface joviality with toughness underneath) coyly woos Edie with trays of vegetables, there’s a macabre ending when Edie closes in on her son’s new life, restoring the old order, with the curtains now firmly closed.
A fine company cohere in the mood of Orla O’Loughlin’s sharply-pointed production. The darkness behind the everyday, the unfamiliar sexual urge which eventually starts in Garry Collins’ ever-innocent, quizzical Geoffrey, with no sense of the ridiculous in his behaviour, the neuroses of Molly Innes’ Clara (after a couple of instant onstage character switches) and the revelation of control in Anne Lacey’s Edie, all contrast Lynn Kennedy’s young supermarket worker Evelyn, eternal smiles betraying her vacuous mind.
Though skilfully written and beautifully produced, the style mean the accretion of detail can rarely reveal anything new or surprising within its 2D picture. For all the comedy, and the sinister implications, 95 minutes is a long time to explore the limited manner and lives of these characters and Pearson’s points about the sinister side of respectability.
Geoffrey Buncher: Garry Collins.
Edie Buncher: Anne Lacey.
Thomas: Lewis Howden.
Evelyn: Lynn Kennedy.
Woman A/Woman B/Clara: Molly Innes.
Director: Orla O’Loughlin.
Designer: Anthony Lamble.
Lighting: Richard Howell.
Sound/Composer: Daniel Krass.
Voice/Dialect: Ros Steen
Assistant director: Marta Mari.