Night, Mother REVIEW: American actors stun in this superb family drama11/05/2021
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She delivers a moving performance as Thelma, the mother confronted with her daughter’s desperate and terrible decision to take her own life. Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize winning play had its UK premiere at Hampstead Theatre in 1985. This revival directed by Roxana Silbert is a timely reminder of the theatre’s significance in introducing British audiences to new American plays.
As the two characters circle each other in a remote house out in the boondocks, it becomes clear that this could be their last night together.
With quiet determination her daughter Jessie (Rebecca Night) informs Thelma that she will kill herself before the night is through.
At first disbelieving, Thelma tries everything to prevent her, or at least extend the deadline for a few days – even hours – as Rebecca draws up lists of practical, mundane chores that must be done in her absence.
They have been living together in mutual dependency since Rebecca’s husband left her for another woman.
Her son is a drug-addled criminal and she suffers from epilepsy, consequently she sees no future for herself and is overwhelmed by a feeling of utter uselessness.
Channing is terrific as Thelma, throwing saucepans and tottering around Ti Green’s bleakly realistic set while Rebecca replaces cushion covers and folds laundry.
Norman allows the facts and motives to sidle into the conversation almost unnoticed and Rebecca never rises to hysterics, maintaining a zen-like calm as Thelma wheedles and cajoles, begs and pleads – “If you’ve got the guts to kill yourself, you’ve got the guts to stay alive.” Superb stuff.
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