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Mummies and Daddies

Torben Betts
FallOut Theatre
White Bear Theatre
(2010)

Production photo

The cast photographs of the actors in this show suggest they might be quite nice to know - unlike the characters they play in this jaundicedly accurate picture of me-generation thirty-somethings who are people I certainly wouldn't want to spend an evening with. When they are as bleakly real and in your lap as in this tiny theatre it is difficult to distance yourself enough to find them funny. It would be easier on the audience if director David Aula had tipped his production into farce: the grotesqueness of the situations would certainly warrant it. It certainly has its laughs but this bleak view of the effects of indoctrination in market-led monetarism and the abandonment of social responsibility makes one rather choke on them.

The play takes place in the lounge and on the patio of Bruce (Michael Lindall), a manager in a market research company, and his girlfriend Gemma (Caitlin Birley).who has a job in recruitment. They've lived in their large house just long enough for Gemma to decide she doesn't like the neighbourhood or the neighbours and pushing for them to move. (In 1999, when they play is set, this would presumably have also given them a profit, though it's not mentioned.) She has also decided she wants a baby.

They are rowing as they prepare a barbecue to which they have invited Martyn (Ian Mairs), a dogsbody from Bruce's office, and his wife Katya (Amy Barnes), a head-turning beauty whom he met in Poland. It is a ploy to make Martyn feel 'appreciated' and encourage him to go on slaving for him. He and Katya, who have just discovered she is going to have a baby, are the only guests. To them add Dawn, an Aussie friend of Bruce, and Emma who tiresomely calls in with her baby (father supposedly unknown) and invites herself to join them. She lives on benefit, though she has wealthy parents, is just as egocentric with an interest in Buddhist ideas and yoga that seems like self-indulgence rather than serious belief. Offstage there are the neighbours and on mobile phones Bruce's mates and Emma's unfaithful father and fretting mother.

A night fuelled by booze and illegal substances and full of infidelities and brazened out embarrassments ends up in confrontations and calamity. If these are the kind of people our society is producing, what hope for the future? Let's hope there is a world outside the one with which Betts presents us. Even people you think could be quite nice he shows being insufferable. Betts extends some scenes beyond when they have made their point and, though probably much briefer episodes than they would be in real life, with characters like these it sometimes tried my patience. You'd have to be more cynical than me to find this hilarious comedy. It needs to find every laugh it can in the first half and then knock those smiles away as things get really nasty.

Until 14th February 2010

Reviewer: Howard Loxton