A bear lies, dead and half dissected, on a kitchen table. Circling it, like predator and prey, are a mother and daughter. Mag, the mother, has remade her life and become a taxidermist in remote Canada. Beth, her estranged daughter, has just got out of prison and tracked her mother down, intent on exacting revenge.
Emerging writer Oliver Emanuel’s new play keeps its cards close to its chest initially – it teases its audience with what’s going on, and why there’s a deceased beast on the counter – but once it shows its hand, it has nothing left to give.
The play attempts to inspect a loveless mother-daughter relationship and ask why we are the way we are. But it’s clumsily done, relying heavily on screaming arguments, obtrusive literary allusions to Frankenstein, and an ill-fitting hallucinatory episode involving the bear. There is little plot, but plenty of overwrought speeches telling us things we already know.
It’s a shame, because Gareth Nicholls’ staging – a co-production between the Traverse and Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre – is potent. Cécile Trémolières’ set – a wooden box, as red as blood – combines headily with Tigger Johnson’s pulsating lighting and Oguz Kaplangi’s ominous sound design.
It also features two full-on, feral performances, from Christine Entwisle as Mag – meek and mousy until she’s suddenly not – and from Charlene Boyd as Beth – wild-eyed and cackling throughout. If they overdo it, which they do at times, it’s unavoidable, given the overripe nature of the writing.