Have you ever winced before being hit? Ever said ‘ouch’ before you felt the pain? Or missed someone before they were gone? In Laura Wade’s play, preemptive grief becomes just another symptom of terminal cancer.
With mother Myra having only six months more to live, her husband and two daughters are given the unruly task to organise the funeral under Myra’s careful and defined instruction. As she gets weaker and the burden of her illness becomes less sardonic and more painful for all to bear, the characters are forced to deal with it and eachother.
Nothing is left unsaid in Laura’s play and the dialogue is the driving force of the performance. Episodes of exchange between the increasingly weak mother and conservatively withdrawn father are some of the most powerful in the play, executed with emotive zest by Carole Hewitt and Richard Tripp under the direction of Helen Wernham. Hewitt’s often Meryl Streep like expressions frames the rainbow-miriad of feelings exhibited by someone who is about to die. She flirts between being exhausted, injured, stubborn, indignant, understanding and Romantic.
It is Myra who is the decisive one in the show and her pedantic lording over her own funeral plans becomes unbearable. There is an interesting parellel between the control adopted by herself and her youngest daughter Jenna, a former-bulimic. This need for control of the conversation, of the environment, of body, becomes the very antithesis to the episodes of derranged grief that the chracters (and indeed the audience) experience.
The set flickers between scenes in a dining room and a graveyard- where the latter is more frequently used as a place to eat. Wade here relocates the family-diner-time ritual and disrupts our notion of traditional funeral preparation, confirming only that there is no ‘should’ when it comes to death and grief. This is a highly personal and emotive play, that confesses that no two experiences are the same.
Progress Theatre Monday 20th- Saturday 25th May 2013 Tickets: www.ReadingArts.com or 0118 960 6060