So, when I conducted my preview, ‘chaotic’ was the word which was batted about quite freely with regard to Rosie O’Sullivan’s Mother’s Ruin. And after attending the opening night I can certainly confirm that ‘chaotic’ is a fitting description. O’Sullivan uses a simple format: a set of parental in-laws meeting one another for the first time. (The affluent Balder-Smiths and not so affluent Sliders.) The arrangement: a dinner-date at the Sliders’ home. However, with the deft skill of a balloon-artist, O’Sullivan bends and twists the characters into ever tighter knots until the polite-dinner date that everybody had hoped for becomes a shambolic, drunken farce. And don’t think that the cast are exempted from this twisting balloon-act: everything about the movement in this play is dynamic. In the preview, O’Sullivan confessed that she finds it hard to pay attention to drama which features long bouts of sterile dialogue. Needless to say, in Mother’s Ruin there is scarcely a moment when one’s head is not pivoting to take in the action. There were times when Sam Hill leapt about with an athleticism more akin to that of a Japanese martial art.
The short prelude in the Sliders’ house lays the groundwork and then the play launches itself off with a relentless energy. It reminded me of being sat with the family one time, huddled around the TV waiting for the for the 100-metre finals. With all the pouting and bravado, I foolishly left the room to put the kettle on. And of course, I missed the mad dash – re-entering the room just in time to see Mr. Bolt performing his usual post-race antics. The point is that, in just a shade over 9 seconds, it was all done: the start, middle and finish had run their course. This sense of events changing in a flash is quite pertinent to Mother’s Ruin. Indeed, if you left the theatre for 9.6 seconds the scene of ‘crisis’ may have altered visibly in the interim with the loss of a few pieces of clothing. O’Sullivan’s play was certainly quite racy which only added to the pandemonium. Watching in-law smooching with in-law increased the chaos as a game of dares becomes a sort of sexual Twister. One moment the prim Cecilia is nervously eyeing up the tatty home of the Sliders (inventively portrayed with DIY props and set) the next she is a feline, sexual deviant. The mind does somersaults.
In this sense you could definitely describe Mother’s Ruin as a little chaotic but this massively attributed to the dynamism and energy of the production . O’Sullivan will be pleased to know that I never felt bored once. It was quite like Toad’s driving in The Wind in the Willows, you were carried away with the thrill but you weren’t quite certain how it was going to end. Without putting a finer point on it, the end was terrific. Just the sort of punchline (quite literally) that brings the house down. The acting was emphatic but consistent throughout with some moments of exquisite comedy. Suffice to say that it is now the second time I have witnessed Hill’s cross-dressing abilities!
All things considered, I look forward to seeing more of Rosie O’Sullivan’s work. For me, the whole evening was reminiscent of the farcical comedy of Fawlty Towers and the class divide of The Good Life which provided an excellent evening’s entertainment at the Upstage Theatre. The intense work of all involved in the production over the last week and a half definitely paid off!