The Distance**** (Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond)

Posted: October 25, 2014 in Theatre

the_distance_1_-_helen_baxendale_-_orange_tree_theatre_-_photo_by_helen_warner_-_webWe are frequently told that the World would be a better place if it was run by women, but Deborah Bruce suggests differently in her sparkling new comedy, which sees three 40-ish mothers descend into total panic, whilst the only voices of sanity are those of the men and a teenage boy. When Bea suffers a crisis of confidence in her abilities as a mother, she abandons her partner and two young sons in Australia to seek comfort and support from her two closest friends in a South London suburb. The friends are Kate, a domineering control freak and Alex, an alcoholic single mother of three (by three different fathers) who is in a frenzy because one of her sons could be caught up in the 2011 London riots, which are taking place at the same time. Helen Baxendale does well as the dazed and confused Bea, having the thankless task of playing straight woman to the comedy characters all around her. Clare Lawrence-Moody makes Kate an unstoppable force of nature, refusing to take “no” for an answer or even to even hear the word spoken in her insistence that everything will be done her way, whilst Emma Beattie’s Alex tows the line obliviously, consumed by her own problems. The appearance of Alex’s son Liam (Bill Milner) is the comic highlight of Act II; fed up with dispensing Ibuprofen to relieve his mother’s hangovers, he gives the perspective of the offspring and, in trying to impose order, he effectively mirrors Kate. Kate’s long-suffering partner (Daniel Hawksford) and his brother (Oliver Ryan) plead for common sense, but are largely unheard. Charlotte Gwinner’s production, performed in the round, moves briskly and Bruce’s writing contains nothing too heavy, but makes many wry observations about the nature of friendship and warns that parenthood is not something to be taken lightly.

Performance date: 24 October 2014

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