The Mother at Ustinov Studio, Bath Theatre Royal

The Mother - credit Simon Annand - e2LAST year French writer Florian Zeller’s play The Father had its UK premiere at the Ustinov in Bath, and went on to a sell out run in London.

Now the studio’s artistic director Laurence Boswell has chosen the companion piece, The Mother, to end the spring season. It brings Gina McKee to Bath for the first time, a return by Richard Clothier, and the debut of the late, great Pete Postlethwaite’s son William, and Cara Horgan.

The stark set, mirroring that of The Father, is where Anne, The Mother of the title, is slowly unravelling. Her empty nest syndrome is no passing phase, but her busy and successful husband Peter seems to think that a few cheery words will sort things out.

When her beloved son Nicolas turns up in the night, having left his girlfriend after a row, Anne is ecstatic.

But as in The Father, Zeller plays tricks with his audience, leaving us totally unsure whether we are seeing any reality, or the entire thing through the fragmented mind of a woman losing her reason.

It’s a brilliantly incisive, frightening and convincing dissection of madness, intensified by the constant repetition of scenes and parts of scenes.

The Mother - credit Simon Annand-426Gina McKee’s harrowing portrayal of the woman whose life has lost its meaning with the departure of her son adds to the Ustinov’s pantheon of unforgettable performances.

There is nothing easy about The Mother, for the actors as much as for the audience. William Postle­thwaite is the beloved Nicholas, fighting between his love for his girlfriend and responsibility for his mother. Cara Horgan, as girlfriend Elodie and in other roles, must show the many faces that are seen by Anne, and Richard Clothier is also a multi-faceted cypher in his wife’s eyes.

You must decide which (if any) of the moments on stage are chinks of reality in this forensic look at addiction and encroaching madness.

The Mother is on until Saturday 20th June. And if you missed The Father, it returns to the main stage at Bath from 22nd to 27th June.


Photographs by Simon Annand

Posted in Reviews on .