A Mercury Theatre Company Production
Mercury Theatre Studio, Colchester
Three short plays
A Moving Story
by Toby Longworth
by Nicola Werenowska
by Tony Casement
Slammers II is the Mercury's second showcase of short plays by members of the company, featuring three works for a cast of four. All have a mother-and-son theme, and all deal with the notion that things are not always what they seem.
A Moving Story has Gina and Tim moving into a new house, surrounded by a chaos of boxes and bewailing the fact that they drag so many possessions with them through life. They are a silly, self-centred couple, and think that the bumbling Tim 2 and his garroulous mum Chrissie, who introduce themselves as their neighbours, have more to them than meets the eye. But when Tim 2 comes with a bottle of wine to apologise for his mum's earlier emotional outburst, what happens proves them right in a totally unexpected way. Tim refills their glasses as he tells the colourful story of this apparently unique bottle. But they awake from their drinking bout to find that their anxieties about possessions have been rather thoroughly resolved.
Toby Longworth's young couple are irritating enough for us feel that they deserve what happens to them, and their neighbours are entertaining stereotypes of the dominating mother and grown-up son. But the real star of the piece is the extraordinary tale of the bottle of wine.
Davy's Day feels like the least successful of the three plays because of its relative predictability; a family assembling for the father's funeral, and their emotional history surfacing explosively. The father is the apparent focus of discontent until it emerges that the mother's favouring of her youngest child, Davy, has been the real cause of grief over the years. Ideas about independence, loneliness in marriage, and feeling trapped are explored before the Oedipal ending brings about what two of the characters have always subconsciously wanted, leaving the other two stranded.
The most startling play of the evening is Tony Casement's The Smithereens. Nicola, an idealistic young woman from Librarians Against War is interviewing Pat, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, but not getting the sorts of responses she'd expected. Meanwhile, the two guys doing the surveillance on Pat's council flat in south London reveal their own complex relationship and attitudes, until the two couple's fates finally collide.
This is that rare gem - a dead serious play that's also at times very funny. But it's also a flawed gem. The librarian is a very prim Miss, and the point about the gap between her view of the world and that of the mother could be more powerfully made if she were less of a stereotype. The relationship between the two surveillance men also didn't always come across with complete clarity. But this is an original piece with a script that is alarming as well as funny, exploring some genuinely interesting ideas.
A great pleasure of the evening is watching the same four actors tackling their different characters. Christine Absalom is cast in every case as mum, but her portrayal of Pat in the final piece is a revelation. Tattooed and lager-swilling, she is powerfully affecting as she tries to articulate her views of motherhood and war. Gina Isaac, Tim Treslove and Tony Casement also do their various roles well, but if he's capable of a piece like The Smithereens, it's clear that Mr Casement should be spending less time on the stage, and more time writing for it.
"Slammers II" runs until 26th June
Reviewer: Jill Sharp