A very interesting and emotive choice of play from director Matt Wilks, but poignantly and successfully performed.
This is the second production to be housed in the newly refurbished Nottingham New Theatre. I was warmly welcomed in the spacious foyer; the auditorium was calm, and I praised the wonderfully intricate set for this production. And then ‘Night, Mother began. Having not known what the play was about beforehand, it was quite a surprise for the seemingly ordinary Jessie to suddenly state that she intended to kill herself that very night.
‘Night, Mother is an intriguing play, its content such a contrast with its naturalistic setting – a daughter in the house with her mother, doing chores – that the play was affecting from the outset. Essentially, the audience knows the ending of the play before it has really begun, thus the performance becomes about the two characters, their relationship, their histories.
As expected in a play with only two characters, Flo Hapgood (Thelma) and Alex Day (Jessie) were fantastic. There was an immense amount of pressure on the two actresses since they were both on stage for a solid hour and a half. Long after the play has finished, I am still stunned by their talent, energy and endurance in performing such an emotionally draining play. Day portrayed the detached but resolute Jessie well, but Hapgood was truly phenomenal. So comfortable on stage, she embodied every emotion of Thelma seamlessly. Their relationship as mother and daughter was really quite charming to watch, especially in moments when they were chatting idly about Agnes and other insignificant gossip.
Hapgood and Day also had to juggle North-Eastern American accents, which, thanks to Alex Jamieson (accent coach), they maintained believably and quite consistently throughout the performance. At times, however, it was difficult to hear what was being said; many lines were unfortunately lost at the beginning, whilst the audience was adjusting to the accent.
What fascinated me most about the play was the amount of humour in it, despite the gravity of the situation. The comedic lines were excellently delivered and the whole auditorium laughed (look out for the cocoa scene). I felt as though I ought not to laugh, considering the premise of the play, but the humour lifted the tension for brief periods, and it blended harmoniously with the tension and raw emotion; a difficult balance to get right. The performance takes its audience on a rollercoaster journey: ups and downs from tension to humour, quiet scenes to angry episodes, even if the pace was a little slow at times. Furthermore, Wilks rightly chose not to have an interval, making the play all the more intense and immersive.
Director Matt Wilks has certainly done himself justice. ‘Night, Mother was an ambitious play for a student theatre to put on but it was moving and emotional. Very intense, certainly, but definitely worth the watch; it will remain with you long after the actresses take their bows.
See ‘Night, Mother at The Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 24th November. Contact [email protected] for tickets.