Writer: Ava Wong Davies
Director: Helen Morley
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty
A huge idea is condensed into a swift 50 minutes, and telling a complete story, but leaving us wanting more and more and more. Two actors, one younger and one older, play the characters we find out are mother and daughter. Their stories dance around each other, mesh and bounce apart – charting the course that brings them from the moment the mother walks out at 4am into the Shepherds Bush night leaving the daughter in the cot and her husband in his bed, until they meet for coffee and quickly separate again.
While they circle around each other’s lives, unaware of each other but always wondering, the play takes a compelling form of almost duelling monologues in the first half, before they meet and talk properly. There’s humour in it, dark at times, but throughout these speeches there’s beautiful and painful poetry as the two women push on in the world. When we get to their coffee shop meeting that poetic language, the flighty and fruitful prose disappears and is replaced with stilted, awkward and helpless chat. It’s a shade obvious as a tactic to mark the distinction and import of the meeting from each of their internal lives, but it’s extremely well done.
As the daughter EJ, Aoife Hinds delivers a consistently riveting performance. A lost young woman, caring daughter to a sick father, a clubber who describes a romantic liaison with a shellshock stare that communicates much more than her words. Tuyen Do as Joy, the mother, is quiet and charismatic as that complex and curious character – the mother who ran out on her baby.
The story and storytelling is fascinating – here we have one of society’s toughest taboos, potentially one of the hardest things a parent can do. But the expected fulsome excuses and apologies are not given. To understand the characters a little better, some deeper explanation of why it happened would have been nice, but Ava Wong Davies shows it’s not essential. Forgiveness is an issue between mother and daughter, not the audience. It was a confident choice to create a work so matter of fact about this intense issue and it’s paid off in spades.
Runs until 23 November 2019 | Image: Fran Cattaneo