Most plays, essentially, are about families and that age-old conflict between kids and their parents. If you go back to ancient Greek drama and myth Oedipus and Electra have complexes named after them.
A child’s view of the world is created by their parents. They can, if they want, make it seem to be a scary place their kids should hide from, or they can say it is wonderful and should be embraced and enjoyed.
The set-up for this darkly comic play is that a domineering rule-setting, brutal, mother has died, and her son and daughter are left to ponder how they want to live their lives. There is no mention of a father in the piece, so it is assumed the mother brought up the children on her own.
Within the family dynamic son Charlie is clearly willing to follow the rules and is extremely keen to receive his mother’s approval. Murphy, the daughter, is a rule breaker and has endured punishments for doing so including being locked in a cupboard for days and beatings.
She wonders, movingly, if her mother ever loved her. Whilst accepting she must have cared for her children, because she looked after them, she wonders why she had to rule by fear rather than love. Could it be, in her own messed up way, by setting rules and shouting at her offspring was the means by which she demonstrated her love?
Murphy is clearly the brighter of the two. Charlie is terrified of the monsters his mother told him were outside the front door, believing everything she said. The rules gave him a sense of comfort and he finds it very difficult to realise he is now free. He loved his mother and making sure that the tea he made her met her exacting standards was important to him.
The dead mother is on stage with them throughout the play. Charlie, at first, does not realise she is dead and there is much fun to be had in moving the corpse around. It reminded me of the Fawlty Towers episode The Kipper and the Corpse and Julie Broadbent did a wonderful job as the dead mother.
Charlie, as played by Scott Cameron, is quite interesting because whilst he is undoubtedly weak willed, cowardly even, he is also very scared. He shows this by being at turns arrogant and over-bearing as well as being fearful and in tears. Scott, at first, seemed to be eating up the scenery a tad before turning in a nicely nuanced performance.
Emily Fitzpatrick as Murphy had the more difficult job as this character is the more conflicted and complex of the two. She hates her mother, but she is also at a loss as to why she treated her children so badly. Murphy is probably more affected by her mother’s death than Charlie. She has no answers now. Her anger and frustration were beautifully realised as was the love she clearly had for her brother.
The play was well directed by writer Tom Kirby and Joe Wood, and they moved the action along at a good pace.
It is on for one more night, 27th July, as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe at The King’s Arms and is sold out.
The Greater Manchester Fringe continues till the end of the month and for information on other shows go to – https://greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk
Reviewer: Adam Williams
Reviewed: 26th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★