“And I told you!…The gun is for me!…I’m going to kill myself, mama! Shoot myself. In a couple of hours.”

Set in a seemingly mundane home, situated somewhere in middle America, ‘Night, Mother delves into the strained relationship between the overprotective and somewhat involuntarily ignorant Thelma Cates and her divorced, epileptic daughter, Jessie. Although describing these layered and troubled characters with so little context seems quite cheap.

The Pulitzer prize winning text by American playwright, Marsha Norman is brilliant in its tragic nature. However, a play with a text so critically acclaimed still demands an equally excellent execution; and this production by Javeenbah Theatre Company Inc. definitely meets that requirement.

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Del Halpin and Amy McDonald in ‘Night, Mother. Image by Dan Ryan. 

Barry Gibson’s direction could hardly be faulted. The constant power play between Thelma and Jessie was evident in the purposeful movement and nuanced inflections. One of the things that I felt did not do any favours to this piece of theatre was the chosen music that opened and closed the play. I felt as though its eery nature did not do justice to the years and pain of suffering that the Cates women had endured. It did not match the tone that was set by the performances in the play. I also felt at times that the blocking given to Jessie (Amy McDonald) lacked substance and was an unwelcome stark contrast to the extreme realism the rest of the play presented.

McDonald’s performance as Jessie was wonderful and unsettling. I still wonder to this day if she was portraying this character with a false sense of reality or just someone who was so severely aware of their life. McDonald’s performance left me wanting answers. One’s that we would never get. For all intents and purposes, I believe her strongest moments happened when engaged in the conversation with Thelma (Del Halpin.) Their chemistry as mother and daughter was undeniable and it was by far one of the strongest aspects of the production.

Halpin’s performance as Thelma was electric. The struggle she faced between her daughter’s controlling nature and her fight to keep her child alive was an ongoing element that layered into what was an incredibly moving and honest portrayal. I enjoyed every heartbreaking second of it.

The set design by Gibson created the perfect unlikely world for this modern tragedy to take place in.

‘Night, Mother is a one-act emotional roller coaster that will make you want to hold your loved ones closer and truly ask them if they are okay.

To book tickets head to javeenbah.org.au

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