Mother and Son, Canberra Theatre*

5 Feb

* I attended Mother and Son as a guest of Canberra Theatre.

My relationship with the Mother and Son TV show growing up was a strange one. It was never a show which I sat down to watch as a child, but I distinctly recall it ending around the same time as the really big show in my life: Agro’s Cartoon Connection. My next memories are of its perpetual re-runs which I’d catch on school and public holidays, but the humour didn’t quite strike me, and the various shades of brown consistent with the set made it seem dated.

So, by no means am I any expert or long-time fan of Mother and Son, but now a little older and assured how good the humour really is – and comforted by the many recognisable cast names including Noeline Brown and Rob Carlton – I had a good feeling about the show.

And it was a feeling proved right. The show has all the familiarity of the original – thanks to the original show’s writer, Geoffrey Atherden, scripting this stage version – and the older house style with a fire place and distinct living areas holds true. But (some of) the browns are gone, replaced with mod cons – much of the show revolves around the characters’ relationships with various mobile and cordless phones – and a real warmth to the set.

This warmth extends to the performances of Brown as Maggie Beare, Darren Gilshenan as Arthur Beare, Carlton as Robert Beare and Rachael Beck as Anita (Arthur’s undeterred love interest), and this warmth seems to give the characters permission to negotiate some tough topics in what is sometimes a rather harsh or cutting way. Brown naturally steals the show as Maggie: as well as her quick – often muddled – responses, it’s the poise and dignity at which she holds herself and her face while she expresses a range of emotions that captivates me – and makes her very, very funny. When Maggie is being quizzed about whether she would be suitable for respite care, she’s asked, ‘Who’s the current Prime Minister?’ and her look, to her quick – and relevant! – responses make it a standout scene.

In addition to a genuinely faultless cast, it’s the little things which make it for me. While there’s no TV on set, lights flash on the wall behind Maggie and Arthur as they watch a football game, mimicking reality so simply. The fire is lit when it’s nighttime, and at one point the oven literally starts smoking.

The scenes used to break the story up (and no doubt to give the stars a chance to change outfits) are among the funniest, particularly the answering machine calls from the numerous ‘people’ (gas bill and subscription companies) she’s been chatting to over the years. Maggie also Skypes/FaceTimes with Robert’s kids in which she delivers her most biting lines – but her ability to use this technology without incident is the least believable aspect of the entire show for me!

It’s a simple plot with a number of easy to follow storylines, and is genuinely enjoyable. My companion – who is extremely familiar with the original – declared it was better than the TV show. Now that’s an endorsement!

Date: Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Cost: I attended as a guest on behalf of Canberra Theatre; ticket costs start at $75.90.

Want more? Tickets can be purchased here. The show runs until 7 February.

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One Response to “Mother and Son, Canberra Theatre*”

  1. whisperinggums February 5, 2015 at 11:21 am #

    I was interested to see this … but for some strange reason hubby never liked this show. There’s something about the humour – I think to do with Maggie’s “dementia” even though she usually got her point – that he didn’t like. Being made of simpler stuff, I liked it! And the originals – Ruth Cracknell and Garry McDonald were wonderful. I’m sure this cast is great too.

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