The Last of the Pelican Daughters – Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Reviewer: James Garrington

Writers: The Wardrobe Ensemble

Directors: Jesse Jones and Tom Brennan

Four daughters meet in their mother’s house. Mum has recently died, and the family is getting together – and their mother’s presence still feels real in the house.

We quickly find that each of them is fighting their own demons. Joy wants a baby. Storm wants money. Sage wants to remember, and Maya wants to hide her secret. Granny has joined them on day release from her care home, armed with a combination of wisdom and dark humour. As the night progresses secrets come out and agendas are exposed. Will their strong family bond overcome the turmoil of passing events?

The Last of the Pelican Daughters is devised, written and performed by The Wardrobe Ensemble, a group of artists whose mission is to tackle some of the big ideas and challenges facing modern society – in this case how to deal with loss and fairness. It’s at times funny, at times serious and often irreverent in its humour, with some entirely believable characters. We only get to meet these people for 90 minutes, but in that time we get a real sense of who they are, and how the family dynamic works.

The sisters have different personalities, and each feels natural in the hands of the performers. Joy (Kerry Lovell) is the oldest, hurting from her inability to have children. Storm (Jesse Meadows) feels unappreciated and wants recompense, and Sage (Beatrice Scirocchi) is feeling her loss. Maya (Sally Cheng) ends up questioning her life choices, with Laurie Jamieson as her boyfriend, a suitably over-the-top Dodo.

The Last of the Pelican Daughters makes you feel as though you are part of this family get-together, an outsider maybe but drawn into the relationships between the family members and the strength of the family ties that bind them, ties that feel threatened by the loss of their mother. You feel the joy, the tensions, the unity and the reactions as events unfold, all visible on people’s faces and in their responses.

It’s not one for the younger theatre-goer but will almost certainly leave you wondering how you might deal with similar events and behaviour – or maybe you’ve been through these things in your own family. It will certainly leave you going home full of thought.

Not always easy to watch but full of dark humour and very well observed.

Runs until 7 March 2020

The Reviews Hub Score

Relevant and thought provoking

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. 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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