• Drama
  • By Michel Tremblay
  • Directed by Stephen Whitson
  • Bread & Roses Theatre, London
  • Until 11th January 2015
  • Review by Oliver J Weinfeld
  • 10 January 2015
If Only…
2.0Reviewer's Rating

Michel Tremblay’s ‘If Only…’ is a retrospective on his relationship with his mother, shown through a series of conversations from different periods in time.

The performance takes place in the upstairs theatre at The Bread & Roses pub. The static set is a replication of Tremblay’s homely living room in 1950s Montreal.

Unfortunately Marianne Adams was taken ill, so the role of Tremblay’s mother was played by Alexandra Grierson.

Both Monty d’Inverno and Grierson gave good performances – the latter being particularly impressive bearing in mind she had a mere two days to learn and rehearse.

Whilst the premise for this play is interesting, the dialogue often descends into a tiresome back-and-forth focussing on trivial details. The son is repeatedly scolded in an exaggerated comedic manner whilst protesting his innocence. However, sometimes these exchanges do contain amusing anecdotes – such as the eccentric aunt crushing her arm in washing apparatus.

As the play draws to a close it takes on a more serious note. Here the characters’ interaction is less caricature and more touching, emphasising the importance of a mother’s role and reminding the audience that their own won’t be around forever.

Whilst the majority of the piece is firmly set in reality, the ending unexpectedly breaks that continuity. The mother, by this point experiencing serious pain, is gifted a water feature, before being seemingly eased out of a side window. This could possibly be interpreted as Tremblay’s re-writing of his mother’s end into a fashion he deemed more appropriate.

Throughout the performance I failed to comprehend the relevance of the thick Scottish accents and colloquialisms in 1950s Montreal. After doing further reading, I feel this is intended to be a UK equivalent of the French ‘joual’ dialect of the working class Plateau Mont-Royal district where Tremblay grew up – although this is not made abundantly clear in the show.

Despite having personal quibbles with the content of some dialogue, it is well written. I think the concept of this play is a good one. It is a portrait of a role which everyone can relate to. The narrator explains how his mother is specific to him, but her role is universal and her behavior appreciated by many others.

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