Ronnie Dorsey Productions
A dustbin man contemplating the unfairness, and indeed the value, of life seems an unlikely subject for a play, but Ronnie Dorsey’s Bye Mum is memorable if uncomfortable viewing.
An unnamed refuse collector (Ben Eagle) goes about his work and lonely personal life but cannot stop reflecting on his mother who is hospitalised and suffering from dementia. Although the painful situation is exacerbated by lockdown, the subjects in Ronnie Dorsey’s script are not limited to a specific situation. There is a tired anger as if the final indignity of mental confusion and a probably lonely death are typical for a woman who had no opportunity to fulfil her potential—she was an athlete who never turned professional. Dorsey goes so far as to question the value of believing in a God who allows such situations to arise.
Ben Eagle is an unlikely introspective hero playing the dustbin man as a gentle giant who seems to have no interests beyond his work and ailing mother. Possibly because of the limited running time, the play raises but leaves unanswered questions as to whether his lonely lifestyle is a conscious choice or result of events. Eagle’s solitary performance suggests the character is emotionally withdrawn but there is no indication if this is due solely to his mother’s condition.
Although events in the hospital dominate the play, we never see inside the institution. Instead, the monologue is performed as background to filmed images of the daily activities of the dustbin man alternating with his memories of his mother in the form of family home movies.
The brevity of Bye Mum limits its emotional impact—it is more a cry of pain that an examination of loss or grief. However, the play remains a moving study of stoic resignation.
Reviewer: David Cunningham