A Fringe First winner at this year's Edinburgh Festival where it was
premiered at the Traverse, Morna Regan's debut play Midden now
arrives at Hampstead Theatre as a solidly constructed, superbly acted but
surprisingly unsurprising play about female family life.
Midden is set in the Derry, Northern Ireland home of Ruth Hegarty's Ma, who shares it with one of her daughters, Aileen (Emma Colohan) and her Altzheimer's-suffering mother Dophie (Barbara Adair). The story revolves around the homecoming of Ma's other daughter, Ruth (the fine, sensitive Michelle
Ruth has returned from America, where she's built a successful
fashion business with childhood friend Mab (Maggie Hayes), also back home
for a visit. But all is not well in her adopted country - Ruth has walked out of a relationship even as she and her partner were in a shop ordering yellow orchids for their impending wedding. Instead of shelling out to the florist, we learn, Ruth popped into the travel agents next door and bought a one-way ticket home.
That change-of-plans revelation, and many like it, are only slowly revealed. Regan's play is crafty at withholding and then revealing factual information, for it has a
larger purpose: to crack open the secrets, and especially the resentments,
that lie buried within family life. This it does by stealth rather than
For such sensitive qualities, Midden has rightly been much admired. Likewise
for its differentiated, disappointed characters - parts which the play's
actress-turned-author creator has seen to making eminently actable. But the piece
is ultimately unsatisfying because its trajectory is always so deeply
Still, Lynne Parker's production for Rough Magic Theatre Company, one of
Ireland's leading new writing companies, does offer the promise of
discovering a playwright of real craft. Now all we need is more art.