Posts Tagged ‘Deborah Bruce’

The Dixon of the title could be the family matriarch or her deceased husband, buried in the local cemetery, more likely the latter as we eventually learn he haunts just about every other character and is the focus of this dysfunctional family.

Mary returns to her home from a period of three months in prison, reduced from six months. It’s not clear why she was there. She’s furious that her daughter Julie has moved in, escaping her abusive partner, and wants her out, now. Her other daughter Bernie, and granddaughter Ella, are there to welcome her home. Their relationship is much stronger.

Mary has befriended Leigh, who she’s met in prison (a subtle, perfectly pitched performance from Posy Sterling) and invites her into her home. She’s oblivious to the family tensions and brings a sense of normality to proceedings. Then Mary’s feisty stepdaughter Tina, now known as Briana, turns up (a terrific performance by Alison Fitzjohn) and the family’s tragic past comes fully to the fore. Mary’s crime is her silence.

What I loved about the play is the way the story unfolds slowly, drawing you in to he family history, getting to know the characters, with a subtle reconciliatory ending in Roisin McBrinn’s well judged production.

The NT doesn’t have a great track record with new writing of late, but this new play by Deborah Bruce is a stand-out exception.

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As contemporary plays go, this is an unpredictable and complex piece by Deborah Bruce, which takes as it’s starting point the somewhat taboo subject of a mother leaving her children and explores how this tests her relationships with her girl friends. I liked it, despite the fact it leaves the reasons for desertion unexplained.

It’s set in Kate’s home in Brighton. She and husband Dewi (a Welsh name they irritatingly mispronounce continually) are new parents who’ve had to try hard to get a child. Her friend, single mum Alex, has come down from London so that she and Kate can help their mutual best friend Bea, who has returned to the UK inexplicably leaving her two children with her Australian husband Simon.

Bea can’t articulate why she left and her friends can’t understand why she could. The play explores issues of parenthood and friendship and it covers much more than the core issue. Alex’s 15-year-old son Liam had been left ‘home alone’ in Peckham but comes to Brighton fleeing the 2011 London riots. Dewi and Vinnie, his brother who is staying there, take parental duties whilst the girls talk during the course of the evening and night.

The play is framed by flashback scenes where Bea and Simon meet en route to Australia, but I’m not sure how much value these add. The inconclusive ending is a bit unsatisfying too. Nonetheless, it’s a good play with an excellent ensemble. It’s a tribute to Charlotte Lucas performance as Kate that I wanted to get out of my seat and tell her what I thought, and there’s a hugely impressive professional debut by Joshua Sinclair-Evans as Liam.

Good to see the Orange Tree and Sheffield Theatres combining to bring good new plays to both cities, and good to see it getting a second outing.

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