This play is described as an insight into the frailties of the mother/daughter relationship. And as the piece is about a well-to-do family from the south of the US, we instantly guess weíre in Tennessee Williams territory and expect an evening of family skeletons rattling in the closet, sorry, armoire, accompanied by the scent of gardenias.
Sadly, we get something very different. A play that had genuine insights into the intricacies of the mother/daughter relationship would be worth seeing but DMW Greer reiterates every cliche in the Teach Yourself Tennessee Williams book and adds a few more for good measure.
The story concerns the family of the eponymous Alice Virginia, known as AV, first of all at a party in the 50s, then at the engagement party of her grandson. There is little dramatic tension, the revelations that are promised are telegraphed from afar, and the play rather fades away.
Plot detail is minimal. At one stage, the two women are locked in the bathroom thanks to the door handle having been removed (donít ask) and the phone being out of order. Itís the sort of situation that might fit in the middle of a Whitehall farce, but here it smacks of desperation.
In fact, a good script editor is required. No southerner would use the word Ďautumní instead of fall, and the date of the engagement party mysteriously switches from that evening to the following day. The play is also under-rehearsed; evident thanks to lines being fluffed and some sticky moments with the set.
Iím also not quite sure that having the two actresses playing the same women at different ages really works. It takes some time to realise that Susannah York is playing a woman about 30 when she first takes the stage.
However, director Cathrine Meister-Petersen copes well with the mess and manages to surmount the poor writing to keep the action ticking over. She is aided by an excellent performance by Amanda Boxer as the daughter coping with the mother from hell and doting on the unworthy son. Andrew Halliday does well in the dual roles of the son/husband too.
York finds AV more of a struggle, hardly surprisingly, as she has to play a woman younger and older than she actually is. But there are occasional glimpses of grandeur, particularly in recalling her glamorous youth, when she takes on a new glow.
There is some strong writing about the nature of beauty that demonstrates that inside this incoherent play, there is some real talent. Unfortunately, Greer canít decide whether it should be a melodrama, a study in psychology or a farce; what a shame.
- Maxwell Cooter