WHEN WE WERE WOMEN
by Sharman MacDonald.
Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Rod TW9 2SA To 3 October 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 26 Sep 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 16 Sep, 24 Sep 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 September.
Uncomfortable family drama rescued from the dustbin of dramatic history.
Following her first play When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout in 1984, Sharman Macdonald continued the idea of time-shifts reflecting on mothers and daughters four years later.
Women is a piece with five actors, but three central characters. Which is a strong aspect of its structure. Young Isla and her mother Maggie slug-out the moral complexities of the daughter’s pregnancy, while Isla’s father Alex sinks further into alcoholic sentimentality and her child’s father Alec is haunted by a guilt-inducing vision, glimpsed in the shadows of dark wartime streets, which eventually emerges as a just cause and impediment to the future which had seemed so clear.
The third vital character, well-portrayed in Eleanor Rhode’s revival for her Snapdragon Productions (she, and it, co-founded with producer Sarah Loader, are names to watch), is wartime tenement Glasgow of the 1940s. In the Round, the restricted sense of space and austerity of atmosphere in James Turner’s set and Mike Robertson’s lighting – with intensification at times from the sound provided by David Gregory – give a sense of confinement, within both the family and a local community which is tight-knit enough to be emotionally throttling.
In the end stern morality and religion leave Isla abandoned, with one year making all the difference as the action oscillates between 1943 and 1944. The difference is caused by a plot surprise, which emerges from the shadows, involving a third female. Yet the consequences for the relation between mother and daughter are the ones that resonate. Macdonald’s language makes the point; the re-alignment of mother and daughter is finally expressed in stark, brief questions and answers.
These characters are firmly, economically played by Lorraine Pilkington and Abigail Lawrie, as the surface details of a life constantly harsh in its expectations of parent and child reaches this vanishing point. Macdonald comfortlessly prevents any scene developing at once; nor ever relaxes – life is remorseless here, with no easy way out. Yet, fearful as she is, Lawrie’s Isla suggests she has the potential to survive through a granite core like that which has kept her mother going.
Maggie: Lorraine Pilkington.
Isla: Abigail Lawrie.
Alec: Steve Nicolson.
Mackenzie: Mark Edel-Hunt.
Cath: Sarah-Jayne Butler.
Director: Eleanor Rhode.
Designer: James Turner.
Lighting: Mike Robertson.
Sound: David Gregory.
Choreographer: Tom Jackson-Greaves.
Fight director: Marcello Marascalchi.