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Reared review at Theatre503, London – ‘funny and touching’

Paddy Glynn and Shelley Atkinson in Reared at Theatre 503, London

Eileen is stuck in the middle. Her once formidable Irish mother-in-law Nora is starting to forget things. Her teenage daughter Caitlin is pregnant. Her husband isn’t great at providing emotional support, or looking after his mum, or even fixing the dishwasher. It all falls on her.

In his first play, This Much (or an Act of Violence Towards the Institution of Marriage), John Fitzpatrick looked at marriage through the lens of two gay men debating whether or not to tie the knot. Here he turns his attention to the family unit and the complexities of inter-generational relationships: the affection between grandmother and grandchild, the emotional cost of looking after older relatives.

Fitzpatrick has created three layered female characters and given them a number of emotive speeches. Eileen describes her descent in to post-natal depression, Nora tells a blackly comic story about the potato famine. The cast sink their teeth into these. Paddy Glynn is delightfully salty as Nora, flickering between wit and lucidity, and alarm as her memory falters. Shelley Atkinson and Danielle Philips, as Eileen and Caitlin, give performances full of warmth and humour. Their closeness, as a family, shines through in the way they interact with one another, frustration tempered with affection.

But Sarah Davey-Hull’s production is less good at weaving all these elements together. The pacing is awkward too. Sometimes it ambles; sometimes it canters. It bounds over one particular emotionally-loaded plot point altogether, in a way that proves jarring. Reared has its funny moments and its touching moments too, but it sinks a bit under the weight of all the things it tries to do.

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Uneven family drama about the relationship between three generations of women