Reviewed – 10th April 2018
“too much disparity of genres detracts from a powerful drama”
At a time when families are being forced to remodel, adapting to the shifting face of politics and economics, ‘Reared’ tells of intergenerational conflict and how, in spite of the struggle to balance the weight of the past with the prospect of the future, it has its rewards. Eileen is juggling preparations for a new baby, a mother-in-law with signs of dementia, a headstrong teenage daughter and a husband who seems unaware of the implications of all this. It explores the complexity of close-knit relationships, what is passed down and what is obscured – the told and the untold – and unpicks secrets which shed a new light on situations.
The Irish touch gives a poignancy to the importance of women in the household and the painful yet inevitable moment when the roles are reversed. John Fitzpatrick’s writing brings all these ideas together in a work which is dramatic, funny, sentimental and, occasionally, almost farcical.
The initiative by ‘bold & saucy theatre’ of a female-led company has created a well-balanced cast, each woman illustrating the particular strengths and weaknesses of her age, with sympathetic supporting male characters. Shelley Atkinson as Eileen depicts the fortitude of the ‘sandwich generation’, coping with both parents and children, and skilfully shows her ability to be caring, practical and vulnerable. The sensitive subject of dementia is successfully reflected in Paddy Glynn’s performance as Nora, flitting between moments of confusion and lucidity, clinging on to her matriarchal status. Caitlin, excellently portrayed by Danielle Philips, represents the dilemmas and pressures of the young along with her friend, Colin (Rohan Nedd), who we warm to as he clumsily tries to do the right thing in an entanglement beyond his maturity. Daniel Crossley plays a likeable Stuart who appears distracted from reality, busying himself with useful jobs around the house.
The homely familiarity of the detailed set (Sammy Dowson) and the proximity of the audience to the stage increase the involvement with the actors. Jamie Platt’s lighting design and the sound by Dominic Kennedy add colour to the action, giving a quasi cinematic feel to the changes of scene. Sarah Davey-Hull’s mindful direction produces some intense and touching scenes – Eileen and Caitlin’s moving conversation, Nora’s developing dementia or Colin’s awkward eagerness – but it is difficult to coherently follow through so many threads of a story in ninety minutes.
‘Reared’ alludes to many social issues but the inclusion of such a quantity of relevant material means that we lose the depth of any one narrative. There is an overall sense of unevenness in the script and oddly discordant reactions at some key moments; seeds are sown and picked up later rather than unfolding, certain personal insights come across as light-hearted asides and a couple of build-ups of tension are left in the air. A contrast of emotions is always stimulating in the theatre but too much disparity of genres detracts from a powerful drama.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by The Other Richard
Theatre503 until 28th April