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Mother of Him at Park200 Park Theatre | Review

Tracy-Ann Oberman (Brenda Kapowitz) - Mother of Him - Park Theatre - Photo by Bronwen Sharp
Tracy-Ann Oberman (Brenda Kapowitz) – Mother of Him – Park Theatre – Photo by Bronwen Sharp

It should feel as though the house is getting smaller, closing in on them, as the play goes on.” So says a note on the setting in the script of Mother of Him, but from my vantage point in the Park Theatre, things pretty much stayed the same, except that the presence of Tess (Anjelica Serra), cleaner to Brenda Kapowitz (Tracy-Ann Oberman), means the Kapowitz house ends up looking considerably tidier. Otherwise, almost everything in terms of set is grey – the kitchen table, the door, the staircase, the wired landline and cordless phone, floors, walls, and even a milk carton: all grey.

If that was meant to be a metaphor for the play, it’s not a very good one, as this is a production that is almost always riveting. It’s not entirely clear straight away what it is that Matthew (Scott Folan), Brenda’s teenage son, is supposed to have done, and my hypothesis that there might be some kind of trial on stage, as there is in The Crucible and Witness For The Prosecution, proved to be unfounded – while there are court proceedings, which explains the regular presence of Robert Rosenberg (Simon Hepworth), Brenda’s friend and Matthew’s lawyer, they take place off-stage.

There’s also Brenda’s younger son, Jason (Matt Goldberg on press night, the role being shared with Hari Aggarwal), eight years old, and brief appearances from Jessica (also Serra), Matthew’s girlfriend, and Steven (Neil Sheffield), Brenda’s ex-husband. Jason is a gregarious schoolboy, and a perceptive one too, and whatever Brenda does to shield him from the worst effects of the media frenzy surrounding Matthew, he works out a considerable amount for himself. Sometimes, the wisdom of children can be grossly underestimated.

Jason also has better reason than most children to not want to set foot outside unaccompanied to begin his journey to school – there are reporters, photographers and camera crews outside, all the time. Eventually (and to close the first half), Brenda does something altogether extraordinary and (at least to me) altogether understandable in the pressurised circumstances: she needs to let off steam somehow. Her frustration is quite palpable in a play that becomes as much about her than the son about to be tried in court.

Matthew doesn’t exactly deny what happened, but the details are rather sketchy in his mind, such that Robert has his work cut out shoring up the case for the defence. Matthew gets on well with his younger brother, dispensing advice whenever appropriate and generally being very supportive, to the point where it is difficult to believe that this is someone who couldn’t comply with the law. The play doesn’t have a ‘this is how it really is’ scene for him – it’s Brenda who bares her soul instead – but in relatively brief moments, much about Matthew is revealed.

The intensity of the play had several audience members breathe sighs of relief on entering the bar at the interval. There’s little respite in the second half as Brenda tries to come to terms with the very idea that her offspring has done something terrible. It’s also worth pointing out that the play is distinctly Jewish in nature, complete with Hanukkah candles and Menorah blessings, though Brenda is not the most meticulous of Judaism’s adherents. The play seems to suggest that the outside world at large is struggling with the idea that an affluent Jewish teenager could possibly do anything heinous, and in doing so, this is a gripping and thoughtful production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

December. Toronto. It’s cold.
Brenda, a single Jewish mother (Tracy-Ann Oberman, best known for EastEnders and the hit comedies Friday Night Dinner and Toast of London) tries to manage her professional life whilst ushering youngest son, Jason, off to school. His elder brother remains asleep upstairs. This could be a day like any other, if older brother Matthew wasn’t under house arrest.

Pursued by the media and tormented by guilt, Brenda tries to to hold her family together as the world is set to tear them apart. Inspired by true events, Evan Placey’s powerful and provocative drama questions what it takes for for a mother to stop loving her son.

Jacob Thomas and Oliver Mackwood Productions in association with Park Theatre present
Mother of Him
By Evan Placey

Directed by Max Lindsay
Cast includes Tracy-Ann Oberman, Simon Hepworth, Neil Sheffield, Anjelica Serra, Scott Folan, Matt Goldberg and Hari Aggarwal.

Plays: 18 Sep – 26 Oct 2019
https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/

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