'Night, Mother: Hampstead Theatre

Stockard Channing and Rebecca Night

Stockard Channing and Rebecca Night in 'Night, Mother at 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.

Stockard Channing and Rebecca Night as Marsha and Jessie in 'Night, Mother.

Stockard Channing and Rebecca Night as Marsha and Jessie in 'Night, Mother. - Credit: Marc Brenner

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.