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REVIEW: ‘night, Mother

Review by Markus Hamence – Thursday 9 November 2023 performance

Holden Street Theatres have struck gold with their final play for the year. ‘night, Mother is riveting theatre, and theatre at it’s best for that matter. I was glued for the hour and a half. Note: There is no intermission and you DON’T want to miss a second so ensure a wee wee break occurs before commencement (or bring in a cup!).

This is a two person play and the pairing of Kathryn Fisher and Martha Lott, who make up the two, is pure magic and their engagement with each other is electric. It is evident that have great respect for each others talent with this craft we call acting.

The show begins with Martha Lott’s character ‘Jessie Cates’ giving her mother ‘Thelma Cates’ some shocking news that will occur in an hour and a half. From there we are privy to an authentic ride through a rollercoaster of relationship trials, secrets, neediness and tribulations.

Fun fact: I went to acting school way back in the early nineties with Martha. It was Anne Peter’s, SA casting (The queen of theatre and tv at the time AND you didn’t mess with her). I had the upmost respect for Martha (who came from a theatre family), it was evident she had the chops as we navigated ourselves around Shakespeare’s work and the Stanislavski method. She, over the year, has been blessed with well deserved great roles as well as being a producer adn of course the founder of Holden Street Theatres which puts on accomplished theatre at high standards.

‘night, Mother is a play that brings these two women to confront and speak the truth of things and moments of the past that have long been hidden or swept under the rug. It’s an awkward joy as they discuss THE imminent occurrence and also which at some points turns to quiet chuckle to see how the character development is displayed to us audience folk. The love for each other we see has at times been uneasy but we see them now, after all these year, finally sit and confront all the issues that have caused friction, not only with each other, but within themselves and those in their outer circle. The story written by Marsha Norman is well weaved and sets a bench mark that the actors MUST rise to. They do, with focus, refinement and I believe they embody their respective characters and know what makes them ‘tick’.

Martha’s ‘Jessie’ is sensationally played and far removed from her last role a pill dropping, alcoholic, aging BUT very glamorous actress, Tallulah Bankhead, in Looped. In this Jessie roams the stage sad with a pained and exhausted heart but with an arched back. it is wonderfull to see such a physical change in an actor. She is dowdy and her care is zero.

I don’t know how BUT I’m new to Kathryn Fisher and I now can’t get enough of her on-stage energy and skill set. She plays mother with perfection. She shuffles the stage while constantly adjusting her nightwear. And is the typical caring, over-protective mother that hides many a secret from her daughter to save further pain and anguish. ALL these held back secrets come out all guns blazing with a varied collection of responses, tears, anger, sadness and a feeling of hopelessness.

Peter Goers directs this (in my humble view) masterpiece. He knows his sh*t. The show is tight, doesn’t waffle and is slick in the way it runs. I enjoy anything directed by this man. In fact I cannot even remember the show but I saw a play of Peter’s in the early nineties and it was his work that got love for theatre happening (and actually reviewing too). Bravo my dear friend.

The stage design/set also needs mention, it is delightfully arranged into an open living plan that is heavily detailed which showcases a life lived, from knitting in a basket, through to crochet rugs and kitchen canisters to a fully stocked fridge plus family pictures in frames. The attention to detail is impeccable. The set is almost a third character as your eyes dart around picking up more and more cleverly arranged items. The interior designer in me came out and there is much respect for the careful arrangement of the furniture and decor.

This show is pulp-able, both in story and in the power of the actors. There is a moment at the finale, and without giving anything away, had a few tears rolling down my cheeks as you see a sense of giving up washes over them. There follows an eery silence and you know what is about to occur. That is all I’m saying.

EXCEPT… Please go and see this play, it is brilliant bloody good theatre and two of the best actors we have in South Australia and one of the best (if not THE best) director we have. Support the locals and you will feel great about it especially when the standard is so high.

‘night, Mother runs until 25 November 2023 at Holden Street Theatres
Tickets here

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