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Letters To My Dead Mother at The Lion & Unicorn Theatre

By its very nature, a show like this one has a lot of relatability – very many people will have suffered loss and bereavement of some kind at some point. In 2019, Ana Carolina Borges lost her mother to cancer, and while a resulting series of letters, written as a form of catharsis, might have made for some self-indulgent imaginings of what could have been, they are instead a mixture of poignant and amusing observations and thoughts on a personal and societal level.

Letters To My Dead MotherHindsight can be a dangerous weapon, but Borges wields it well, managing to elicit laughter from the audience looking back at a time when toilet paper had to be rationed by supermarkets. She is careful not to portray a rose-tinted view of the pandemic as a whole – when a family emergency arose when travel restrictions were still in place, the costs and logistics of, for instance, having the right kind of negative Covid test at the right time, on top of everything else, is something she’d rather not go through again.

Let’s move on,” she keeps telling the audience, and thus herself – a recurring phrase that suits the brisk pace of this slightly sentimental but never saccharine narrative. It was interesting to hear the various techniques she used to somehow try to come to terms with her loss and get on with life, in a disarmingly honest – or, at least, highly plausible – account. There are video projections that proved effective. The dance routines, I thought, were rather less so – pleasant as they were, and perfectly executed, I’m not sure how much they really added to the story.

The audience doesn’t learn much about the mother’s personality – indeed, we seemed to discover more about her father’s obstinate nature and inability to accept assistance even as a frail and elderly man – did she like to dance? Was that what all the dancing in a show about losing someone close was for? The old adage about the world laughing with you but crying being a solo activity didn’t, Borges discovered, always apply: telling others about her bereavement, she thought, might help, but instead it elicited sympathy, which she didn’t want, so she stopped talking about it. And on and on, day by day, she adjusted and re-adjusted her strategies and coping mechanisms accordingly. It’s a fascinating tale.

At forty-five minutes long, it’s one of those shows that manages to pack more storyline into one act than some shows do in two. Yes, you’ll need a drink afterwards (conveniently, there’s a pub below the theatre) but this surprisingly refreshing show is worth seeing.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

After losing her mum to cancer, Ana started writing her letters as a coping mechanism. The subject of these letters would vary from random things that happened on her day and thoughts that were going through her head, to deep raw feelings she was experiencing after her mum’s departure. Reading back these letters, she realized they told a story.

LETTERS TO MY DEAD MOTHER is a one-woman, “autofictional” show about grief: its stages and the radically contrasting ways it manifests itself.

Death is, inevitably, part of one’s life.
Grief comes in the package for the ones around it.
Yet, most grievers feel like a burden when talking about their losses.
Grief is always a good subject to avoid, unless you want to kill the mood or ruin someone’s day.

Ana unapologetically puts hers on stage.
And she promises you’re down to have a good time if you come along for the ride.

Themes of terminal illnesses and death.

WRITTEN & PERFORMED BY: Ana Carolina Borges

DIRECTED BY: Almiro Andrade & Najla Andrade

ADDITIONAL CREATIVES: Amelia Grace Eve (animator/projection designer) & Caio Sanfelice (prop & costume designer / marketing image)

RUNNING TIME: 50 Mins (No Interval)



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