All About My Mother

November 23, 2018 | By | 1 Reply More

★★★☆☆   Ambitious

Assembly Roxy: Wed 21 – Sat 24 Nov 2018
Review by Thom Dibdin

Clever in its staging and ambitious in scope, the EGTG’s Scottish premiere of All About My Mother, at the Roxy to Saturday, provides plenty to satisfy but a certain amount of confusion along the way.

Samuel Adamson’s script is based on Pedro Almodovar’s 1999 movie, about a nurse and single mother, Manuela, whose 17 year old son is run over by a car and sets out to find his estranged father, now known as Lola, in Barcelona.

“Based on” is the operative aim here, rather than being a strict adaptation of the screenplay. But while Adamson manages to keep the required edginess of the original, it isn’t always a success in theatrical terms, particularly when he overburdens the script with quick-fire short scenes.

Director Ross Hope has embraced those difficulties however. With a number of very strong performances from a large cast and a gallant back-stage team, he has set about the task with suitably vital effort.



The heart of the production’s success is the performances. As Manuela, Wendy Brindle conveys the huge strength of a bereaved mother, internalising her pain as she sets out on a new mission. There is a real silent modesty about the character and complex mix of resilience and brittleness.

It is this focus which gives the slightly crazed and sordid characters she surrounds herself with a sense of near normality. And all the time James Scott is wandering on and off the stage, the ghost of Esteban, fleshing out the narrative a little, giving an idea of the son she lost.

larger-than life

Not that Thomas Timms is going for normality in his portrayal of Agrado, an outrageous transvestite club performer, rent-boy and Lola’s ex-lover. It’s a strutting, larger-than life performance in which he just about carries off the breaking of the fourth wall, as if he actually was a nightclub act.

Thomas Timms. Pic Lunaria

These club elements take place on a thrust stage, that is little more than a catwalk into the audience. It is a fine use of the Roxy main hall by Hope, and almost works in the desired effect of allowing scene changes to take place unnoticed in the darkness behind.

Hilary Davies is in great form as the actress Huma Roja, who Esteban adored and who they had gone to see perform as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, when her ran across the road after the performance to get her autograph. There is a frisson of arrogance about her, coupled with neediness for her lover, the young actress Nina Cruz (Abbye Eva) who is playing Stella.

The performances of Streetcar take place on the thrust stage, again. Allowing them to frame the rest of the action – and their repetition to emphasise the resonances between the two plays.

Elsewhere, Laura Macleod is beautifully naive as Sister Rose, whose ministry with street workers had put her in touch with Lola and makes here the next call in Manuela’s hunt for her. Beverley Wright is imperious as Rose’s mother, an artist known for her “imitations” of famous paintings – some would say forgeries.

complexity

There is a huge amount to unpack here, and Hope succeeds in ensuring that the telling of it all is as transparent as possible.

However, he and the production are undone by the sheer complexity of the staging. Despite Staging designer Dan Sutton creating three discrete playing areas – they are simply not enough to recreate what could, in a bigger theatre and with a bigger budget, be done with sliding screens.

It is a brave idea to run some scene changes while other scenes are still ongoing. And it works fine when Timms is out front doing his stuff. But Hope really needed either to work on the blocking and performance of those changes which happen in full view, or to find a way to make them unnecessary.

On the up-side they enhance the flow and probably cut a good 15 minutes of the running time. On the down side, it is distracting when the scene hands look apologetic for being there. Hope seems to have forgotten that everything seen on stage should be treated as a part of the performance.

It’s noticeable that the production really picks up in the second half, when scenes last longer than a few minutes and the actors can get on with developing what is known and looking for greater depth.

Because there is a huge amount going here – and plenty to make this a fascinating and must-see piece of work. Here is heartbreak and complex discussion of mortality, powerful references to previous pieces of theatre – Lorca is there too and it doesn’t feel out of place – and fascinating, strong female characters.

It has been something of a mission by Hope to secure the rights and get the play onto an Edinburgh stage. What is here is definitely worth seeing but, having given it a four night run, it would be fantastic to see EGTG work on it some more for future presentation.

Running time two hours and 45 minutes (including one interval).
Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU
Wednesday 21 – Saturday 24 November 2018.
Evenings: 7.30pm.
For tickets and details: Book here.

The original movie and Samuel Adamson’s script are available from Amazon. Click the images for details:
 

ENDS

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