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Forever Yours, Mary-Lou review at Ustinov Studio, Bath – ‘striking and intense’

The cast of Forever Yours, Mary-Lou at Ustinov Studio, Bath. Photo: Simon Annand.

In Forever Yours, Mary-Lou the four characters assume the formation of a classical quartet. Director Laurence Boswell maintains this striking arrangement, originally inspired by a Brahms recital.

The effect this has is to make the actors address all their lines to the audience in an overlapping barrage of confession and accusation. Re-located to Ireland, French Canadian writer Michel Tremblay’s play depicts a meeting between two estranged sisters, Carmen (Caoilfhionn Dunne) and Mandy (Amy McAllister).

This fraught encounter is framed and interrupted by the inescapable presence of their parents on either side. Polly Sullivan’s set design is adorned with hugging statuettes that mock the family from all directions, and the impossibility of any physical intimacy is intensified by little tombstone lumps between the chairs. As mother Mary-Lou (Caitriona Ni Mhurchu) says, they are all “Alone. Together.”

Wearing rainbows of eye shadow and a scalloped pink dress like the inside of a conch shell, Country and Western singer Carmen appears to have her head in the clouds – the skill of Tremblay’s play lays in its ability to continually invert an audience’s original sympathies, both in the case of the siblings and the parents.

The intensity of the searing, screaming rows as the family’s secrets crash out induces the bitter taste of adrenaline. It is an exhausting watch in the very best sense, its unremitting sorrow only punctured by the hope represented in Carmen’s self-determined escape from this hell.

Verdict
Visceral, intense adaptation of a French Canadian family drama

Production Information

Production
Forever Yours. Mary-Lou
Venue
Ustinov Studio
City
Bath
Starts
March 24, 2016
Ends
April 30, 2016
Press night
March 31, 2016
Authors
Michel Tremblay
Translation
Michael West
Set
Polly Sullivan
Lighting
Colin Grenfell
Sound
Isobel Waller-Bridge
Technical
Camila Stanford (wardrobe manager)
Stage manager
Sarah Jenkins (company stage manager), Christie Wilkes (assistant stage manager)
Cast includes
Caitriona Ni Mhurchu, Paul Loughran, Caoilfhionn Dunne, Amy McAllister
Casting
Ginny Schiller
Producer
Theatre Royal Bath
Running time
1hr 25mins