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Mother of Him

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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A mother once said “There is one thing worse than your child being bullied and that is your child bullying someone else”.

Brenda is put in that terrible situation when Matthew, her 15-year-old son who she thought of as a perfectly normal teenager, is accused of raping three young women on a single night after a drunken binge with some of his friends.

She tries to get her head round it – all the while taking care of her other, eight-year-old child, Jason and desperately attempting to run her small household with the appalling knowledge burning in her brain, and the vengeful crowds and paparazzi crowding round the front door to monitor her every appearance.

She tries to make Matthew say it was the other boys’ fault. She enlists the help of a lawyer friend, Robert (Dale Rapley), but the boy refuses to talk, despite the fact that if he is judged as a child rather than an adult, the sentence will be easier for him. We are left knowing that the trial and whatever happens afterwards is inevitable.

This award-winning play deals with one of crimes that can come out of teenage binge drinking – so it's very contemporary in flavor. The young writer Evan Placey has based it on a true story but written it purely from the mother’s perspective. The boy knows he has done wrong and must be punished, what he doesn’t realize is the suffering that has to be endured by his mother and the rest of the family. Often he acts like a normal member of the family, helping to fold sheets and teasing his little brother – but much of the time he just stays in his bed.

There is not a false note or less than honest performance in the entire play. American actress Madeleine Potter is excellent as the tormented, indomitable Brenda and Tom Gilding is a perfect sulky teenager, but one can sense the confusion and rage bubbling inside. Truly worthy of mention is the performance by Gideon Leibowitz who plays Jason, the child. It is Jason who provides most of the comedy and he carries it off with confidence, humour and charm. This role is shared between him and William Byrne.

John Bell has designed a most elaborate and effective multiple set with a living area and kitchen and a staircase which leads up to Matthew’s bedroom. The lighting design by Giuliano Bocca and sound by Matt Eaton are both wonderfully atmospheric without ever getting in the way of the action, and the play is expertly and sensitively directed by Guy Retallack.

- Aline Waites

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