This short, emotionally charged drama about mother-daughter relationships is conceptually sophisticated, understated and reminds us of what theatre can be.
The play follows a tight musical structure. Each scene repeats the same lines about everyday topics with slight but significant variations in the script, pace and emotional tone of delivery. The daughter is constantly trying to break a cycle of frustrating conversations about the weather, cleaning and a neglected aunt, trying to create harmony from discord.
There is no actual music, or any sound effects at all for that matter. Nor are there many props. The set is literally stripped back; the original script features comfy chairs, blankets and newspapers which simply do not appear in this production. Even the offstage voice of the father is edited out. Scene changes are marked by the daughter changing t-shirts and a cup of tea is the only other prop.
But wait, let’s not forget that a real mother-daughter pair also sit on stage in low lighting, silent throughout the performance. This draws our attention to the fact that the two actors are male. You might ask – Why not female actors? Or a father-son relationship? Yet from the opening lines gender melts away – these aren’t male actors or female characters – they are simply two people navigating a strained parental relationship.
The two actors have great chemistry and give touching, unsentimental performances. Campion is understated and funny as the mother. Turnbull gives the impression of trembling on the verge of barely restrained high emotions as her/his patience is worn out. Long pauses in their dialogue push the audience to the limits of our attention span without losing us for a second. Both men are brilliant. The production reminds us that you don’t need luscious costumes, elaborate light displays and dazzling sets and to produce raw, moving drama.