Wednesday, 5 August 1998

Some Mother's Son, Aug 5, 1998

Some Mother's Son by Jill O'Callaghan
At La Mama until August 23, 1998
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review Aug 5, 1998

The attentive Gennazano Convent girls at Some Mother's Son, would be familiar with Irish Catholic references such as Christmas midnight mass and St. Patrick but it is unlikely they had any direct experience of mediaeval mummers play, Irish jigs and the IRA or Sinn Fein.

Written and directed by Jill O'Callaghan, the play, which is on the VCE Drama list, has a return season at La Mama that replicates the intimacy of a B and B in Ballymalone Ireland, complete with blazing fire.

But the warmth and cheer of the hearth is not echoed in its residents. Maura Kelly's (Libby Stone) husband, a member of Sinn Fein, was murdered in his armchair, in front of her son Diarmuid, (Joseph Clements) 27 years earlier. Diarmuid is now a member of the IRA.

To upset the apple cart, two Australian tourists arrive. Rene (Maureen Hartley) and her dead son Emmet's girlfriend, Therese (Kath Gordon) are on a bizarre quest to avenge Emmet's murder.

O'Callaghan's play raises issues about revenge as a solution to violence. When does the murdering stop? Can justice be achieved with the gun? Can we take the law into our own hands?

Maura's painful telling of her husband's murder is powerful. Another affecting moment is the midnight mass overflowing with victims: the baker's widow whose husband was roasted alive, two brothers, one's arm shot off, the other is knee-capped. It is a litany of crimes against humanity.

The pain of grief from violent death would make one mad and Therese's grief is near-deranged. The mellowness of Hartley is a good foil. Stone's Maura is somehow fragile while remaining earthy. Clements is a potent, brooding presence with an edge of danger and desperation.

Relationships become more complex as the protagonists become acquainted and one mother realises she cannot wreak further pain on another.

The dialogue is sometimes too informational, with unnecessary detail of landmarks, history and legends such as St. Patrick. It is also never made clear how and why the Australians decided on their target for vengeance.

The traditional Christmas mummers play about St. Patrick's defeat of Prince George is hilarious. The players improvise and romp wearing huge raffia condoms on their heads. A clever choice was to integrate the La Mama book raffle into this wacko scene.

By Kate Herbert

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