“Be the change you want to see in this world”
As we get closer to the end of the weekly rep season, I’d love to be able to say that the over-arching conceit of the whole affair has been revealed in a moment of stunning clarity, but instead it just trundles on as a bold experiment which has had just as many misses as it has had hits. Play number five – Nikole Beckwith’s Untitled Matriarch Play (or Seven Sisters) – was closer to the former than the latter for me – a decent concept but one besmirched by an over-extended, over-worked stab at something interesting that rarely comes off.
The play begins in Nowheresville USA with Siobhan Redmond’s Lorraine gathering her ageing mother and her four-strong brood of daughters to reveal that she is going to have another baby, and this time it will be a boy. This comes as something of a surprise as Lorraine is 54, so she is employing a surrogate in the form of Angela Terence’s Sera, but her decision awakens a whole host of dissatisfactions in these women as the situation highlights the frustrations they all hold.
And when Beckwith focuses on this, she mainly succeeds. The fractious sibling relationships are a delight to behold – Debbie Chazen’s bumbag-wearing Karen fearing she’s over the hill (at 35) as the oldest, Natasha Gordon’s Mimi the most outwardly self-possessed yet still insecure about so much, and Laura Elphinstone’s Claire a neurotic, typical middle-child, forever ‘not being told anything’. Oh and the always-ignored baby of the family, Farzana Dua Elahe’s Beckah. All single and childless, their mother’s choice forces them to confront the state of their lives and how they all feel out of sorts with each other and the world around them.
But the playwright isn’t satisfied with this, and so introduces a deconstructive note of fourth-wall-breaking which blights some of the monologues that are sprinkled throughout the play and in one case, stops it dead with a bizarre excursion into the auditorium. Combined with a flabbiness about the script that means it drags on for considerably longer than it really needs to, Vicky Featherstone’s production struggled to maintain its bright start and ultimately left me disappointed. Anna Calder-Marshall’s drily perceptive Grandma Sylvie gets many of the best lines and there’s a piñata that has to be seen to be believed, but it just isn’t enough.