Friday, 23 March 2001

Salt, March 23, 2001

Salt by Peta Murray
Playbox Theatre at Beckett Theatre March 23, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Mothers and daughters. Food and kitchens. They seem part of the same picture. Mothers teach daughters to cook. They fight and make up over the kitchen table and pots of tea.

In Peta Murray's new play, Salt, it is, ironically, the daughter, Meg, (Victoria Eagger) who is the devoted, pernickety, innovative cook and her mum, Laurel (Julia Blake) who cooks meals from Heinz cans. It is a pity we in the back rows miss the aromas of the on-stage cooking.

The play is directed effortlessly and seamlessly by Aubrey Mellor a on a sleek design by Trina Parker.

The history and relationship of these two women is played out in their kitchens. They cook, argue, reminisce. We very quickly realise that memory is unreliable, particularly for Laurel who is losing her grip on her past. She is fearful of the unspecified 'tests' that will name her dementia.

Julia Blake's Laurel is a complex characterisation of the unravelling of a woman who has always been narcissistic, flirtatious and abandoned. It is a movin portrayal of the fear and despair that accompanies Alzheimer's. Roles are swapped. The mother becomes the mothered, the baby bird feeds the mother bird.

Victoria Eagger plays Meg, the brisk, practical 'kitchen fascist' who has missed her final chance at relationship and children. She now devoted herself to her mother.

Vegetables and fruit feature throughout. Fresh specimums are displayed in spotlights in the set. Tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, eggplant, rhubarb are paraded like celebrities by Paul English who plays an anonymous Man/Narrator. He provides us with scientific details of their origins and poisonous properties. He is charming and witty as the representation of all men in their lives.

Murray splices warm, naturalistic scenes between the women with their internal monologues, memories, recipes and readings from famous foodies: "Fulton, Margaret."

It is a study of the mother-daughter relationship and the deterioration of a mind with age but it is also about lost dreams.

Mysteries are suggested early in the pasts of both women. The revelations of these in the final scene are disappointing in the script. They seems contrived and arch, lacking any genuine significance in the greater scheme of things, in the face of dementia.
It is an enjoyable meal of a play.

By Kate Herbert

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