The Hope Theatre
Reviewed – 16th August 2018
“There are some terrific, sharp exchanges between mother and daughter which both ring true and are very funny indeed”
Meghan Tyler, who wrote Medicine, and also plays Moira-Bridget Byrne in this production, tells us in the programme notes that she was inspired to write the play after listening to the song Medicine, by Daughter. It is a haunting song, and its influence is clearly felt in Paul Brotherston’s beautiful, spare production. The set is bare, other than an old park bench, but the subtle and insistent sound design (terrific work from Iida Aino) and the perfect, nuanced lighting (credit here to Will Alder) work in tandem to provide the ideal, understated backdrop for Ms Tyler’s three-hander.
The play takes place on a clifftop in Northern Ireland, and mainly consists of a long conversation between Ma Byrne and her daughter Moira-Bridget, who has fetched up there after a drunken night out. Tyler has a good ear, and the dialogue initially zips along, ably treading the tight line between believability and theatrical interest. There are some terrific, sharp exchanges between mother and daughter which both ring true and are very funny indeed, and the moon-cup section (yes, ladies and gentlemen, you did read that correctly) was a particular high-spot.
The play does lose pace about a third of the way through, and the writing begins to become slightly repetitive, but the ball is kept in the air by Lynsey-Anne Moffat, who excels as Ma Byrne, and is heartbreakingly convincing throughout. Possibly because, as the writer, she is very close to the piece, Meghan Tyler’s Moira-Bridget doesn’t ring as true, and the character seems less fully realised than those of her parents. The play’s denouement reveals a level of seriousness to Moira-Bridget’s plight which does not come across when we see her on stage, and it takes the achingly poignant final scene between Ma and Da Byrne to lend some emotional gravitas. Adam Best was wonderful as Da Byrne; it seemed a shame not to use his talents more fully. Ultimately though, the play is Ma’s story, which puts flesh on the bones of the song lyric: ‘You’ve got a warm heart, you’ve got a beautiful brain/But it’s disintegrating from all the medicine’.
Medicine marks a very good writing debut for Meghan Tyler, and there is clearly a wealth of talent in the cast and creatives who have realised it. It is a diverting hour for theatre lovers and proof that The Hope continues to thrive under Matthew Parker, as the OFFIES recognised last year, awarding him the Best Artistic Director title. Long may it continue.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography by Alex Fine
The Hope Theatre until 1st September
Previous production from Off The Middle