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Mum Can You Hear Me – Living Record Festival | Review

It’s unexpected, I’ll give it that much. A woman (Alex Douglas) and her mother (Alecia Maddox) are, aside from the recognisable Welsh dulcet tones of BBC Television’s Huw Edwards and other broadcasters right at the beginning of the show (supplying the headline story of the dead bodies found in the trailer of an articulated refrigerator lorry in Grays, Essex), the only characters. This strikes me as slightly odd, given that there were thirty-nine people who died in that incident, and there is talk of how awful it is that their voices will not be heard.
Mum Can You Hear Me - Living Record Festival

It’s a radio play, and the comprehensive soundscape reflects this. One might have expected more of a sense of increasing doom and panic, and although there are hints at this on occasion, such as when the articulated lorry comes to a halt for some time before ‘they’ (whoever ‘they’ are) have arrived at their destination. In the short, sharp, repetitious sentences, there’s a hint of Beckettian absurdity, which gives the script an ethereal quality.

That said, it wasn’t always easy to maintain interest, and not because of the difficult subject matter, but rather a near-relentless serenity in the narrator’s voice, irrespective of whether she was recounting happy childhood memories or repeating the bleak conditions she finds herself in. It has been said that some people are never too tired to say how tired they are: this is someone who can’t seem to stop saying how cold she is.

The total lack of visuals adds to the chilling (so to speak) effect of the lady’s situation: she speaks of mirrors, but not of windows. I didn’t follow the guidance to listen through headphones (they mess with what little hair I have left these days), but I imagine doing so would provide a more unsettling and perhaps a more nuanced experience. At thirty-eight minutes, it is, in essence, a long goodbye, and ultimately a harrowing one. A thoughtful and reflective play.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Mum. Can You Hear Me?
by Peripeteia Theatre Company, part of The Living Record Festival Mum Can You Hear Me? Is a four-act audio drama, inspired by the Essex lorry deaths of 2019.

This production invites the audience into the subconscious mind of a young dying woman as she struggles to say goodbye to a world and person she can no longer see. The audience experiences the immediate environment through the sound space which is created for this play.

Written by Bernadett Szabo. Performed by Alex Douglas and Alecia Maddox. Directed by Adam Cachia. Sound Design by Áron Gyenge.

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