It runs in the family. Sarah’s estranged father recently killed himself. Her son is also beginning to struggle with his mental health.
Rachel Tookey’s non-linear play explores the relationship between a parent and their child in the face of debilitating mental illness. To begin with, Bromley Bedlam Bethlehem has a Jez Butterworth-style, mythically detailed feel, but this is soon abandoned in favour of a more realistic depiction of the way depression manifests across generations.
Thomas Martin’s production is steadily paced and the cast deal well with the play’s blend of the humorous and harrowing. As son Ben, Daniel Rainford is a soft, frayed presence, Dan Mullane is arresting as dad Eamon, mashing pills into his face as he becomes an increasingly decrepit, difficult and isolated man, while Madeleine Bowyer’s Sarah holds things together, convincingly ageing up and down as the play shifts backwards and forwards in time.
Georgia de Grey’s set makes literal the murky, uncertain territory in which the characters circle each other. An earthy floor and metallic trees place them in a wilderness, Hollie Buhagiar’s whining, buzzing score amps up the creepiness, and the lighting by Pete Maxey turns the trees’ shadows into inescapable bars.
Tookey’s dialogue tends towards the expository at times, the play feels roomy at two hours and a distressingly fake baby makes one distracting appearance. Otherwise, this is a sensitive and sharp portrayal of family members pushing each other away, even as they reach for each other.