Mother and Son

by | Feb 27, 2024

 

Written by Geoffrey Atherden, Mother and Son was a popular television series which aired from 1984 to 1994. The original series starred Ruth Cracknell, Garry McDonald, Henri Szeps and Judy Morris. An updated version aired on tv in 2023 starring Matt Okine and Denise Scott, but never quite captured the same spark as the original series.

Under the brilliant direction of Pip Le Blond, this stage adaptation of Mother and Son by the 1812 Theatre has find a happy compromise between the two, taking the original characters we knew so well but giving the storyline a more modern twist. The result is a story that seems remarkably familiar, but feels relevant and timely.

Arthur still lives with his mother, Maggie, and he knows she is no longer safe to be left alone for long periods. However, Arthur has fallen in love and decides he wants to spend some time away with his new woman, expecting his brother to care for their mother during his time away.  His brother, Robert, is a busy man; busy with his dental practice, his struggling marriage, his two children and … well a few other “problems”. Robert is unreliable and expects his brother to provide all the care for their aging mother. Despite all of this, Robert is Maggie’s favourite son – something she makes no effort to hide. Arthur’s new girlfriend suggests some time in respite care might be the best option – but convincing Maggie to go there is easier said than done.

What unfolds is a funny, but thought-provoking and at times even challenging journey of love and sacrifice. Indeed, a number of audience members commented the show “felt a little too close to home at times”. Since Mother and Son first aired in 1984 Australia our population has changed. Australia is facing an aged care crisis and the challenge of how to best care for our aging parents is a very real problem for many families. There are some genuinely hilarious moments within the play to provide the balance for the frustration you can’t help but feel for Arthur.

The success of this production lies in the superb casting. Annie B Smith is a delightful Maggie, bringing a good balance of crankiness, confusion and warmth to the role. Maggie can be manipulative, but is still likeable. Annie B Smith does a wonderful job in bringing out the contrasting qualities of Maggie.

Tony Clayton is excellent as Maggie’s long-suffering and dutiful son, Arthur. It’s hard not to feel sorry for poor Arthur and Clayton successfully draws out the challenges and frustrations of the conflict of responsibility and trying to care for an elderly parent, with a sense of genuine love.

George Thompson is hilarious as Arthur’s brother Robert – the busy dentist and favourite son of Maggie. Thompson has an uncanny resemblance to Henri Szeps who played the character in the original tv series, and captures the naughty cheekiness of Robert.

Anna Ruth Laird is perfect as Robert’s wife Liz – a “snob” as Maggie calls her.

 

 

Rounding out the cast, Elise D’Amico plays Arthur’s love interest, Anita, with warmth and tenderness. Rishi Kanojia is hilarious and delivers many of the funnier moments of the play (no spoilers). Ann Quinn is excellent as aged care resident, Monica.

The final two cast members, Skyla Cleverley and Josh Cleverly are a lovely surprise in the storyline and bring the play into the modern era with some clever use of technology.

A beautifully detailed, quality set by Robin Emmett and Jenni Evans, along with lighting design by Robin Le Blond, costumes by Nicole Comber and properties by Jan Langford all immediately set the scene. This is enhanced by a good sound design by Peter Frid.

The use of screens to continue the story telling is a clever way to fill the time taken for set and costume changes, as well as establishing the modern era in which the story is set. Despite this, there were still a few lengthy scene changes, which I can only assume were due to some frantic costume changes, and hopefully will improve with a few more runs.

Overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable evening of theatre. The play works well as a stand-alone story for anyone who has never watched a single episode of Mother and Son, while fans of the original series will be transported back in time and appreciate the relevance of this thought-provoking “sitcom” more than ever.

Mother and Son is now playing at The 1812 Theatre

For more information and tickets: https://www.1812theatre.com.au/

 

 

 

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