Home » London Theatre Reviews » Parents’ Evening by Bathsheba Doran at Jermyn Street Theatre | Review

Parents’ Evening by Bathsheba Doran at Jermyn Street Theatre | Review

Parents' Evening - Jermyn Street Theatre - Amy Marston (Mother), Peter Hamilton Dyer (Father) - photo Harry LivingstoneRemember when you were a child? Every year, along with all the other trials and tribulations of growing up and going to school, and extra layer of intensity would be added with the annual visit of your parents to your school to learn all about you. Fortunately, I was pretty much a model pupil and so my teachers always said positive things about me. Even so, I would always get worried when it was time for the folks to pop in and have a chat about me without me being there. One thing I never thought about though, was the effect of these visits on my mum and dad, something that has been partially rectified with the European premiere of Bathsheba Doran’s play Parents’ Evening at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

In a nice bedroom, a nice middle-class couple are discussing their ten-year-old daughter, Jessica. The mother (Amy Marston) is sitting on the bed talking whilst reading papers, whilst the father (Peter Hamilton Dyer) is pacing the room, trying to discuss their child with his obviously distracted wife. You get the feeling, these types of discussion have happened before but there is an added frisson of tension in the atmosphere tonight, as the couple are about head to their daughter’s school for parents evening. They both acknowledge that Jessica is a bit of a handful – not a stranger to trespass and distributing ‘adult’ literature among her peer group – and are worried about what they are going to be told by her teachers that evening. As the time to leave moves closer and the nerves kick in, the father and mother both get more tetchy with each other but are determined to present a united front in front of the academics and other parents.

OK, no spoilers but before going into anything else, I have to thank playwright Bathsheba Doran for totally ruining Cluedo for me by pointing out the major issue with the game’s entire premise – something I had never noticed in years of playing. Aside from this, Bathsheba has written an intriguing two-hander exploring the conflicts that arise in a relationship where priorities are often changing. Unfortunately, in my opinion, whilst well written, there was not much that was likeable about either the mother (a successful lawyer) or father (a novelist who seemed to be suffering from writer’s block) character. Both had a selfish side that they displayed quite often, and they really struck me as a couple that – despite all their protestations to the contrary – would have been much happier without having a child to add another layer of complexity to their relationship. In particular, I disliked the father who struck me as being the most selfish of the characters and could possibly be looked at as emotionally abusing his wife in his manipulation of her.

Both actors were good in the roles and there seemed to be real emotion in Amy Marston’s performance of the mother – particularly in the heavily emotional charged second act which brought out the best and worst of both characters and needed a lot of concentration from the actors to get everything over. Director Stella Powell-Jones made good use of Charlotte Evans rather minimal set – a large bed, complete with superfluous cushions,a couple of side table and wardrobe doors that matched the rest of the walls. In fact, the set told you a lot about the characters before the lights had gone down. There was, for me, a problem with the direction at times as the two parents stood either side of the stage, which is wider than you might think, leading to a bit of a tennis effect looking left and right.

Overall, whilst Parents’ Evening was an interesting and well put together production, something about the overall story left me feeling unfulfilled, as if a chance had been missed to really explore some of the various issues that were raised. Perhaps that was part of the problem. There were so many areas of marriage, relationship and parenting that came into focus that it was impossible to concentrate on any one particular aspect. However, just because a show doesn’t totally work for me it should not be dismissed out of hand. It is a well put-together and acted production that should stimulate conversation amongst the mothers and fathers in the audience, and give their children a quick insight into the horror felt by everyone as parents’ evening approaches.

3 Star Review

Review by Terry Eastham

She’s been disruptive in class. She’s rude to the teachers. And now she wants to learn the trumpet. But whose performance is really being judged? A mother and father prepare to discuss their daughter’s progress at the local primary school, but their rare opportunity for some quality time together begins to test the bonds of love, work and family.

The REBELS Season
By Bathsheba Doran

Directed by Stella Powell Jones
Designer – Charlotte Espiner
Lighting Designer – Will Reynolds
Sound Designer – Yvonne Gilbert

Jermyn Street Theatre
Wednesday October 3 – Saturday October 27 2018


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