by Deborah Bruce.
Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 19 December 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 12 Dec 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 3 Dec 2.30pm, 8 Dec.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Carole Woddis 30 November.
Motherhood and female friendships well worth another look.
Paul Miller must be looking back on his first twelve months as Orange Tree Artistic Director with huge satisfaction with awards for director Ned Bennett (for Pomona), Joel MacCormack for his performance in Doris Lessing’s Each His Own Wilderness as well as critical acknowledgement with this year’s Empty Space Peter Brook Award.
To round off 2015, Miller has brought back one of his first commissions. Deborah Bruce’s acclaimed The Distance strikes at the heart of our notions of motherhood. In a sense, as in a latter-day Medea, Bruce asks the awkward question, what is motherhood, what do we expect of mothers? Do we expect more from them than fathers?
Abandoning your children must figure high on the list of judgemental no-no’s. Mothers simply aren’t supposed to do such things. But what if, as Bruce’s Bea maintains, she’s not “good enough” as a mother, challenging the present-day idea that precisely `good enough’ is OK?
Bruce weaves this central state – agonisingly portrayed by Michelle Duncan – around an exploration of female friendship, marriage and parental damage by introducing us to Bea’s best friends, the voluble, controlling Kate (the high octane Charlotte Lucas) and alcoholic Alex (Charlotte Emmerson), mother of Liam and two other unseen children by three different fathers – though that state of affairs goes comparatively unremarked.
Set against a background of the 2011 riots, Bruce’s script is spiky, funny and occasionally frustrating in the Orange Tree’s in-the-round setting, where the speed and blocking of director Charlotte Gwinner’s production and the overlapping dialogue can work against each other.
For all that, and Kate’s implausible damascene conversion, suddenly reversing her marital bullying of ex-musician husband Dewi, such is Bruce’s ear for contemporary life, The Distance emerges as a telling and poignant play-for-today about motherhood, double standards, identity and an existential sense of being lost.
Beautiful performances all round, especially from Duncan, Timothy Knightley as the Australian, Simon, who Bea meets by chance and with whom she embarks on the very big adventure that doesn’t work out and Joshua Sinclair-Evans making an impressive professional debut as Liam, a walking time-bomb, but sweet with it.
Bea: Michelle Duncan.
Simon: Timothy Knightley.
Kate: Charlotte Lucas.
Alex: Charlotte Emmerson.
Dewi: Daniel Hawksford.
Vinnie: Steven Meo.
Liam: Joshua Sinclair-Evans.
Director: Charlotte Gwinner.
Designer: Signe Beckmann.
Lighting: Mark Doubleday.
Sound/Composer: Max Pappenheim.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
An Orange Tree and Sheffield Theatres co-production.
World premiere of The Distance at the Orange Tree Theatre, London 8 October 2014.
Revived at Sheffield Crucible Studio 30 October 2015.
First performance of this revival at the Orange Tree 26 November 26, 2015.