Mother and Child – Glass Mask Theatre, Dublin

Reviewer: Milly Burke Cunningham

Writer: Jon Fosse

Director: Johan Bark

Bestseller, a lovely café on Dawson Street, also serves as a theatre for Glass Mask Theatre. The audience was seated at little tables (a rare treat in the theatre world) which was the highlight of the experience.

An adult son visits his mother after a long time apart. Their reunion is one of reckoning, the son confronts his mother for abandoning him as a child, leaving him with a religious grandmother and then his father.

The set up of the story – with themes of abandonment, motherhood and choice running through it – has much potential, but the writing is vacuous. There is no emotional depth, no intellectual rigour – nothing to recommend the play itself. Mother and child are struggling to connect, to remember, to exorcise their demons, acknowledge they are each other’s demons – but it felt like the actors here were struggling to create an emotional core in the play and give meaning where there was none. Several mentions of Beckett and Joyce only serve to highlight the lack of literary talent on display here. Jon Fosse has a Nobel Prize for Literature – perhaps his novels are worlds apart from his plays. It seems here that either the story was so close to home for him that he struggled to make meaning from it, or it was just the seed of an idea that he failed to fertilise.

Carmel Stephens is a capable actor, in moments her comedic potential were visible and she does have presence, however the material here did a disservice to her talent. Kyle Hixon gave a mannered performance, but he convincingly brought the anger out – he may be better suited to playing darker roles. Johan Bark’s direction fails to inspire, he regurgitates an all too familiar sequential piece here: the ‘run, run, anguishing pause, back to run, run’. The catwalk as a device was lost here. The full length mirrors, on which the characters scribble and draw fragments of their lives, felt more like a means of distracting the audience from the sparse script than holding any weight as a metaphor or device.

I would recommend this little theatre to everyone, but not this play.

Runs Until 6th April 2024.

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The Ireland team is currently under the editorship of Laura Marriott. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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