Highgate resident and writer Tim McArthur’s connection with Upstairs at the Gatehouse goes back 25 years when he performed in the venue’s Christmas production.

A Word for Mother explores relationships, trust and grief and with an all-female cast, its a relatively simple affair, set in the kitchen of the family home after the sudden unexpected death of Pru.

She's the mother of three daughters who have gathered to mourn, work out practical tasks, and start thinking about how they reframe their relationships without their matriarchal keystone.

Heather Johnson’s Faith is well dawn: dependable, a teacher and mother of two boys whose marriage has disintegrated. Younger half-sister Hope (a fine performance by Melania Pecorini) is on the cusp of womanhood but was still being treated as 'Mummy’s little princess.

Ham & High: The cast of A Word For Mother which runs Upstairs at the Gatehouse until May 26.The cast of A Word For Mother which runs Upstairs at the Gatehouse until May 26. (Image: Upstairs at the Gatehouse)

And eldest sister Charity (played by a strong, assured Abigail Moore) is a lawyer nurturing a secret. Superficially confident, and a hard worker she has a powerful thirst sated by industrial applications of vodka.

The heady mixture of grief and alcohol unlocks longstanding family grudges, infidelities, and character defects which are cleverly explored in flashback scenes where each sister recalls a conversation with their late mother and what she meant to them.

The excellent Louise Gold, whose career included performances in many Muppets productions, appears as Pru and the whole play is nicely performed although you had the feeling they were battling heroically to make more of what is pretty thin gruel - not to mention against a loud vacuum cleaner that drowns out their speeches.

There's a betrayal that sparked a rift, references to the desperate plight of a child carer that initially engage but are sadly not explored, and the work swerves opportunities to develop insights into issues that affect us all.

Sarah Redmond's sometimes overblown direction combined with lots of twists and revelations, at times felt like watching an episode from a daytime soap.

With a lighter touch and a deeper dive, there could have been an excellent play lurking within.

A Word For Mother runs Upstairs at The Gatehouse in Highgate until May 26.