From the grave to light-hearted cheer, the classic Australian TV series Mother & Son found its way to the Canberra Theatre. The modernised adaptation of the six series, by the original writer Geoffrey Atherden, combines playful and poignant moments that all families experience with the inevitable deterioration of a loved one.
As twinkle-eyed mother Maggie, played by Noeline Brown, grapples with an increasingly confusing and depersonalised existence of mobile phones, automated messaging systems, and Skype conversations with her grandchildren, her second son Arthur is torn between caring for her and pursuing his love Anita, played by a lively and likeable Rachael Beck.
Hindered by his perfidious brother Robert, played by Rob Carlton, middle-aged Arthur attempts to live some of his life independent of his demanding mother. The result is a witty, gentle and generous performance that explores the delicate interplays within a family of dysfunctional dynamics.
A brilliant and well-known cast – though not without a few faults. Nicki Wendt, as the daughter-in-law Liz, gave a delightfully funny performance but occasionally closed off her vocal and physical energy by turning away from the audience. I was reminded of Noel Coward’s timeless theatrical maxim: “know your lines, and don’t bump into the furniture”. Bumping into the furniture would have been entirely excusable for the absentminded Maggie, but forgetting one’s lines… perhaps just an apt irony for some. One felt that the production may have been a touch under-rehearsed.
Warm, light and never dull, Mother & Son is a nostalgic saunter down one of Australia’s memory lanes, and accessible to all ages.
Mother & Son by Geoffrey Atherden was performed at the Canberra Theatre from 4-7 February 2015. Produced by Spencer McLaren, Joseph Thomsen and Dean Murphy. Directed by Roger Hodgman.