We were promised sex, and sex we were given. But as we watch a mother hysterically laughing in an attempt to cover the sound of creaking bed springs from her 15-year-old daughter’s room, it is clear that this is not the youthful romp we may have expected, but an excruciating and close-to-the-bone comedy that exposes the politics of family life, the awkwardness of transitional ages, and the strength of one’s morality. Played by the wonderfully fatigued Lara McIvor, Hilary is your archetypal middle-class, middle of the road, middle-aged mother.
A one-time political activist and strident feminist, Hilary now finds herself worrying less about the threat of nuclear energy and advocating the sexual revolution than about the possibility of redundancy and the spread of her daughter’s legs. Tilly, fifteen at the beginning of the play, is neither tearaway nor angel, but the relationship between mother and daughter has reached an impasse that can only be breached by shouting and acts of retaliation and Clara Davies is superb as the teenager whose attempts at rebellion are only ever thwarted by the permissiveness of her mother. The character of the moody teenager can often be a difficult one to watch; all too often the recourse is to Kevin and Perry, or Vicky Pollard-esque hyperbole, but Davies brings a redeeming lightness and humanity to the role.
It is this humanity that, in some way, makes the character even more difficult to watch; even the most goody-two-shoes of us in the audience can recognise some aspect of our younger selves in the glances of exasperation and the discomfort present in her face when watching her mother attempting to make small talk. The serious issues undercutting the play are what keep the audience thinking long after leaving the theatre; the fear of ageing, the relaxation of morals in the face of such fear, the maintenance of love and affection in a marriage, the different treatment of boys and girls in spite of our ‘enlightened’ age.
However, the play itself is light and refreshing, and truly a laugh-a-minute frolic with many more than memorable performances (Sammy Glover gives a brilliantly painful number as the theatrical friend of Hilary, displaying her recent passion for burlesque dancing). The production is a masterly one; the choice of music perfectly reflects the anger, confusion, and lack of understanding in a house going through adolescence – at once too loud, and too fast, jarring with the moment of calm between the scenes. The only issue to take would be a small one with costuming, which unfortunately did at times feel a little like an afterthought.
The entrance of the character Frances, played expertly by Sammy Glover, was rendered somewhat confusing by her essentially hipster-esque clothes, making it unclear before about halfway through the scene, exactly how old she was supposed to be. The baggy jeans and cable-knit jumper didn’t lend themselves much to the characterisation of an ageing aspiring actress still in the throes of self-obsession. Despite this minor digression, the piece is spectacular. This play is a true gem, a hilarious study of the conflicting morals of modern middle class life that will curl toes with excruciation.