I Like Mine With a Kiss
For his final production after a wonderful ten years as artistic director at the Bush, Mike Bradwell has chosen to direct a play by one of his great discoveries, Georgia Fitch.
He also directed her first play at the Bush, Adrenalin...Heart, which gave a lovely overview of the modern-day search for love and a happy relationship.
The protagonists of her latest play, Lou and Annie are closing in on 40 without stable relationships and begin to question the meaning of their lives, as man after man disappears looking for something that they cannot or will not offer.
Michelle Butterly plays Lou, a successful school teacher who protests too loudly that she does not want a child of her own, while at the same time alienating both hunky Andrew French's surprisingly mild-mannered Mattieu and Northern Irish film-maker Jim, played by Ruari Conaghan.
Lou is a fiery lady who likes a drink or twelve and covers her internal weakness with noisy bravado. Annie (Heather Craney) has been her best friend for twenty years but, at least on the surface, the two are like chalk and cheese.
Annie is devotedly bringing up a teenage daughter Freya, played with wonderful conviction by Jade Williams. Indeed, one of Mike Bradwell's strengths is to introduce young actresses whom he coaches to present perfect incarnations of sullen teens who are bright but cover their intelligence with great determination.
At the other end of the scale is Linda Broughton as Annie's mum, Jean, who seems like a character from EastEnders or even The Krays. She has had a hard life and tells us about it, but there is a capacity to love there too, especially for her wayward granddaughter.
The crux of the play is developed as following Lou's drunken (and most amusing for the audience) birthday celebration, the two friends become pregnant, questioning the efficacy of morning-after pills.
Their reactions could not be more different and those of everybody around them are equally unpredictable. This leads us to much debate and tearful argument about motherhood and the way in which it can complete or blight a life.
Georgia Fitch writes well and there is much good humour in I Like Mine with a Kiss. However, while middle-aged women might be prone to mood swings, almost every character in this play seems willing to do a volte face when things get tough, so that eventually, their instability stretches credibility.
The two leading actresses, together with Jade Williams, acquit themselves well but ultimately, this play does not quite work, as it desperately tries to portray far more human emotion than could reasonably be fitted into two hours.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher