Tackling the fallout within a family that follows when one member commits an unconscionable crime, Mother of Him is a thoughtful, morally knotty character sketch.
Premiered in 2010, Evan Placey’s debut play tells the story of teenage rapist Matthew – played here with a quiet, unsettlingly gentle energy by Scott Folan. Rather than attempt to explain the young man’s actions, Placey leaves the character underwritten, instead focusing the drama on the struggle of single mother Brenda to weather a storm of accusations and self-recrimination.
Tracy-Ann Oberman portrays the embattled Brenda with tremendous sensitivity, skilfully navigating the conflicting emotions of fierce protectiveness towards her family and visible, skin-crawling loathing for the man her eldest child has become.
Director Max Lindsay keeps the performers at a distance from one another, barely touching except for in a few, charged moments, creating a delicate, breathless mood that’s only occasionally punctured by some clunky, perfunctory dialogue.
Lee Newby’s stark design aims for cold neutrality, an expanse of grey slabs laid out on a metallic grid, dotted with featureless props, and dominated by a narrow upper landing that stretches overhead like a catwalk. It’s certainly striking, but all that empty space detracts from the sense of claustrophobia the story demands, with performers strolling in and out of each scene via multiple routes.
It’s only when the front door is opened, accompanied by a flurry of strobing flashbulbs, that we get a sense of the mounting pressure the characters face under the persecutory scrutiny of the media.