London acting coach, theatre director, Guy Retallack
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WHATSONSTAGE.COM

Mother of Him by Evan Placey

Venue: Courtyard Theatre
Where: Inner London
Date Reviewed: 25 June 2010
WOS Rating: 
Average Reader Rating: 
Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews
A mother once said “There is one thing worse than your child being bullied and that is your child bullying someone else”.

Brenda is put in that terrible situation when Matthew, her 15-year-old son who she thought of as a perfectly normal teenager, is accused of raping three young women on a single night after a drunken binge with some of his friends.

She tries to get her head round it – all the while taking care of her other, eight-year-old child, Jason and desperately attempting to run her small household with the appalling knowledge burning in her brain, and the vengeful crowds and paparazzi crowding round the front door to monitor her every appearance.

She tries to make Matthew say it was the other boys’ fault. She enlists the help of a lawyer friend, Robert (Dale Rapley), but the boy refuses to talk, despite the fact that if he is judged as a child rather than an adult, the sentence will be easier for him. We are left knowing that the trial and whatever happens afterwards is inevitable.

This award-winning play deals with one of crimes that can come out of teenage binge drinking – so it's very contemporary in flavor. The young writer Evan Placey has based it on a true story but written it purely from the mother’s perspective. The boy knows he has done wrong and must be punished, what he doesn’t realize is the suffering that has to be endured by his mother and the rest of the family. Often he acts like a normal member of the family, helping to fold sheets and teasing his little brother – but much of the time he just stays in his bed.

There is not a false note or less than honest performance in the entire play. American actress Madeleine Potter is excellent as the tormented, indomitable Brenda and Tom Gilding is a perfect sulky teenager, but one can sense the confusion and rage bubbling inside. Truly worthy of mention is the performance by Gideon Leibowitz who plays Jason, the child. It is Jason who provides most of the comedy and he carries it off with confidence, humour and charm. This role is shared between him and William Byrne.

John Bell has designed a most elaborate and effective multiple set with a living area and kitchen and a staircase which leads up to Matthew’s bedroom. The lighting design by Giuliano Bocca and sound by Matt Eaton are both wonderfully atmospheric without ever getting in the way of the action, and the play is expertly and sensitively directed by Guy Retallack.

- Aline Waites

Reader Reviews:

Great set, lighting and sound. Excellently acted by all the cast but mention must go to Madeleine Potter and Tom Golding. Tension builds to the climax when both actors lived the pressure and torment - real heart rending stuff. - Jackie P

 

The Stage

Mother of Him

Published Friday 4 June 2010 at 13:10 by Jonathan Lovett
Teenage Matthew spends all day in his room. His mother won’t walk his younger brother to the bus stop. The moment the front door opens there’s a storm of chatter and camera flashes.

Gradually we realise the ‘him’ of the title has done something very bad and the family is under siege in its own home.
Claustrophobic, intense and intriguing, Evan Placey’s tight domestic drama focuses on the mother of the accused rather than the perpetrator, which is both its strength and its weakness.

On one hand we avoid sensationalism for novelty, on the other her son and his motivations for the deed are too opaque. Nevertheless, this is a new work of many strengths - not least the maturity with which Placey details the horror of a motherwho finds her own flesh and blood inexplicable.
Sensitively directed by Guy Retallack it also boasts one of the best casts on the fringe with a magnetic central performance ofGreek-like gravitas from Madeleine Potter.

Tom Golding is a jittery bag of angst as Matthew, while his seriously talented young stage brother - played on the night by Gideon Leibowitz provides some much needed comic relief, and even the cameos by Jennifer Thompson and Sarah Cherkowey are subtle character studies that enrich this heartfelt production.

 

BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE:

Mother of Him

By Evan Placey 
Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton

Review by Howard Loxton (2010)
When Toronto mother Brenda should be thinking about Hanukkah candles and buying presents she's having to deal with being at the centre of media attention. When eight-year-old Jason sets of for school he has to brave a posse of newsmen in the snow outside the door. Upstairs elder brother Matthew, seventeen, is still in bed. He has been charged with breaking into a student dormitory and raping three teenage girls and he doesn't deny it
Winner of both this year's Kings Cross Award for New Writing and a Canadian Under 30 New Playwriting Award, and now getting its premier production directed by Guy Retallack, this play isn't really about Matthew and why it happened - he claims he was too drunk to remember much about it; it's about how Brenda copes and the effect on her.

Madeleine Potter gives a fine performance as Brenda, a professional woman coping with bringing up two boys on her own, fielding work calls, her own persistent mother and avoiding those from journalists and desperate to prevent events from harming Jason, who is played by the remarkable and totally convincing Gideon Leibowitz (sharing the role with William Byrne). She is great at showing both the iron control and the lack of it.
Bringing up children is always a bit like this but these circumstances pitch things dramatically higher leading to the kind of old style first act curtain that most modern dramatists seem afraid to write.

"I hate what he's done - but him I can't hate," says Brenda to the lawyer friend Robert defending Matthew. As Robert, Dale Rapley shows us his escalating frustration when Brenda refuses to exploit her younger son to make the 'right' impression on media and court and when Matthew's refuses to co-operate in trying to shift the blame elsewhere.

Matthew complains that no one will listen to him. He may not know how he got into this situation but he is prepared to take the rap. Tom Golding plays him as a nice kid, good with his younger brother, who just wants to tell the truth. Ready to face up to the questions of his girlfriend (Jennifer Thompson). He never gets the big soul-baring scene you might expect but manages to suggest a great deal in those moments, usually between scenes when prop or costume changes are gong on, when we see him alone in his bedrooms, often exercising with weights.

Even the scene changes seem to grow from the play: changes, cast and stage management just do what is necessary. Retallack's direction never seems contrived. This is a play that explores rather than offering explanations but this production certainly makes its prize winning seem fully justified.

 

REMOTEGOAT:


"'Gritty Tale of Motherly Love'"
by Lauren Witts for remotegoat on 10/06/10

Mother of Him is written by the Canadian UK-based playwright Evan Placey. It is the winner of this year's Kings Cross Award for New Writing and has also been named winner of Canada's Under 30 National Playwriting Competition.

As fifteen-year-old Matthew Kapowitz counts down the eight nights of Hanukkah, with his family, he stands accused of a very serious crime. By the end of eight nights Matthews future will have been decided and the critical question of whether will be sentenced for his crime as a child, or whether he will be sentenced as an adult, will have been answered. In Matthews's case this decision will make all the difference.

Toronto's press gather around the family house and as visitors arrive and leave, the tension within the family rises. As the narrative unfolds, the housebound teenager sleeps through the days, his mother fights for her family and the plays central concern emerges. Despite the seriousness of Matthew's crime, the play is not really about him. Instead, Mother of Him is an exploration of how far a mother's love will reach to support her children no matter what the circumstances and at what cost to herself.

As Brenda Kapowitz, the mother, Madeleine Potter's performance was consistent, impassioned and heartfelt. She took on the role with great commitment and played it with balls. Tom Golding plays the accused Matthew with authenticity as he mopes around the house, sleeping at irregular hours and behaving with an increasing sense of brooding. From the front row, one can almost smell the hair gel and week-long worn hoody. In the role of Jason, the 8 yr old brother of Matthew, William Byrne really shone. He was playful and endearing and in equal measure exasperatingly difficult for his troubled mother. The boy brought a lightness and element of comedy to the play, providing some much needed relief from the rest of the action. The set, which didn't change from start to finish, did feel a bit static at times. But then this is a play about a family almost entirely confined to their house for 8 days, so perhaps that is acceptable.

It is clear to see why this play has gained so much acclaim. This play worked, Placey successfully carried the story through and as a piece of theatre it was certainly affecting. Yet, the main area of contention within the play is that it ventured very little into the morals of Matthew's crime. At no point does he show true remorse for the pain that he has caused those around him - the victims of his crime, his mother, his brother, or his briefly appearing girlfriend Jessica.

As an audience we are left with some kind of resolution of Brenda's battle, but as far as Matthew is concerned the audience is left with many unanswered questions. This is certainly a good play but what stops it from being a brilliant one is the avoidance of the so called 'elephant in the room'

 

THE STAGE

"Evan Placey’s tight domestic drama"

"a new work of many strengths - not least the maturity with which Placey details the horror of a mother who finds her own flesh and blood inexplicable"

"Claustrophobic, intense and intriguing"

"it also boasts one of the best casts on the fringe with a magnetic central performance of Greek-like gravitas from Madeleine Potter"

"Jennifer Thompson and Sarah Cherkowey are subtle character studies that enrich this heartfelt production"

 

THE BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE

"Even the scene changes seem to grow from the play, Retallack’s direction never seems contrived. This is a play that explores rather than offering explanations but this production certainly makes its prize winning seem fully justified"

 

THE PUBLIC REVIEWS

The Public Reviews Rating: *****

"Mother of Him comes to us from Canadian playwright Evan Placey who has won a string of awards with this epic study of a family at crisis"

"Tom Golding as Matthew is outstanding, creating an insular teenager who knows that he’s living on borrowed time"

"Added to this mix are fantastic ensemble performances leaving no weak link, this is a great night at the theatre that does what theatre is supposed to do which is to entertain yet enlighten us"

 

WHATSONSTAGE

WOS Rating: ****

"American actress Madeleine Potter is excellent as the tormented, indomitable Brenda and Tom Golding is a perfect sulky teenager, one can sense the confusion and rage bubbling inside"

"Truly worthy of mention is the performance by Gideon Leibowitz who plays Jason, the child. It is Jason who provides most of the comedy and he carries it off with confidence, humour and charm"

"The lighting by Giuliano Bocca and sound by Matt Eaton are wonderfully atmospheric ,and the play is expertly and sensitively directed by Guy Retallack.