'Night, Mother: Hampstead Theatre
- Credit: Marc Brenner
Staged as part of Hampstead Theatre's much delayed 70th anniversary season, Marsha Norman's Pulitzer prize-winning suicide drama received its UK premiere here back in 1985.
But dusting off a downbeat slice of ultra realism during an anxiety-provoking pandemic proves unwise for director Roxana Silbert.
Even with the star wattage of Grease and West Wing star Stockard Channing, this muted two-hander, never really catches fire, and only exerts an emotional pull an hour into its 80 minutes.
In a remote house in the rural US, a co-dependent mother and daughter rattle around discussing bin collection, grocery deliveries and family ties. But the minutiae of domesticity conceals a darker truth. Introverted, epileptic Jessie is planning to shoot herself with her dead father's gun - and her endless lists are instructions for Thelma after her death.
Staged in real-time, this evening of truths and confessions should be unbearably tense, as an increasingly desperate guilt-wracked Thelma begs her grimly-determined daughter not to do it. But here both feel frozen and locked in their entrenched positions - and Ti Green's kitchen-diner set doesn't actually feel lived in.
Channing wrings wry dark humour from a woman whose loveless marriage and life have been a disappointment, yet who still wants to live. While Rebecca Knight's monotone-voiced Jessie is finally moving as she explains why she doesn't want to go on; 'this is how I say no'.
Yet the pair are never allowed a moment of tenderness, and the poignancy that Jessie's explanation of 'Why?' is her final gift to enable Marsha to live on fails to land. 2/5 Stars.