Mother and The Monster
- Gareth K Vile
- 25 August 2019
Low-key and effective feminist scripted theatre
In their modest and understated four-hander, The Counterminers prove that the Free Fringe can provide a space for ambitious theatre. Making excellent use of the limited space, their set conjures the claustrophobia of a life lived in the shadow of systemic misogyny and the traditional script delves deeper into the pressures caused by male privilege and the anguish of lives lived in the shadow of oppression.
Theatre has become increasingly literal in the past decade, but Mother and The Monster boldly engages a metaphor to explore the aftermath of abuse. Designer Charlotte, played with understated verve by Arabella Spendlove, moved into a quietly miserable retirement after an Oscar nomination: a visit from a journalist forces her to confront the source of her depression, that a successful male stole her early designs for a monster movie. Suffering from hallucinations, she imagines her suppressed rage as the monster himself, a creature hidden in a cupboard that demands revenge or at least acknowledgement.
The strong ensemble's naturalistic performances lend the script a warmth and sensitivity, emphasising the almost mundane nature of the abuse, and while Teddy Fahey bellows and thumps as the monster, the direction is measured and subtle: the path to revelation is managed gently, allowing the huge themes to take on a personal, intimate familiarity. The plot may explore a fictional theft of creativity, but it exposes the ingrained misogyny of the film industry, invoking #MeToo without reference to the specific cases. It also makes a broader point about the historical exclusion of women from the arts, connecting contemporary feminist protests to older exclusions.
Thanks to the thoughtful direction, good performances, a script that focuses on character rather than spectacle and a well-paced dramaturgy that works with the limitations of the venue, Mother and The Monster is a strong argument that simple, traditional and direct theatre can still offer emotional and intelligent productions and that the Free Fringe can provide a place for theatre, despite its emphasis on comedy.
Laughing Horse @ The Golf Tavern, until 25 Aug, 9.45pm.