first night


Allegra Dowley is left emotional following CTC's production of 'Motherland'

‘Motherland’ by Steve Gilroy is a moving piece of verbatim theatre, taken from interviews with women from the North East of England who have been directly affected by the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coincidentally, this production comes at a poignant time with the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan earlier this week and fast approaching Remembrance Day.


It must first be said that this is one of the better productions I have seen in the Assembly Rooms and I urge everyone to go and see it. The Director, Kate Barton, must be commended for creating such a sensitive piece of theatre that deals with such difficult issues. I found myself laughing one moment, and brought to tears the next.


The success of this piece comes from the strength of the cast itself, showcasing some of Durham’s best female talent. The entire cast did a remarkable job of maintaining convincing Geordie accents throughout- not an easy feat! However, special praise must be given to Louisa Mathieu (Elsie), Polly Norkett (Joanne 1), Erin Welch (Gemma), Jenny Walser (Nikki), Eleanor George (Pat) and Ellie Gauge (Janice) for their simply outstanding performances. What stood them out from the rest were their incredibly natural and realistic delivery techniques that made their performances so convincing. Erin Welch, although her part was relatively small, really shone with her confident and natural portrayal. Louisa Mathieu’s performance was one of the most believable and touching. Ellie Gauge’s performance brought a fantastic level of energy and humor to the stage before plunging into a heart- wrenching revelation that left the audience audibly sniffling. Her ability to cry on cue, and make the audience follow, was particularly impressive!


My main criticism would be of the set, which appeared cluttered and unnecessary. The nature of the piece and the strength of the performances meant that only some chairs were necessary. I thought that the set created a distraction from the piece itself. However the photographs of deceased soldiers placed around the stage was a poignant touch. The Technical Director, Matthew Jennings, must be congratulated on his subtle yet powerful lighting design. There were one or two dodgy costume and make- up choices, but this is only if one is being particularly picky.


There was what seemed like a natural ending to the play following the dramatic climax of Janice’s grief. However, there was an additional 20 minutes or so after this, in which new characters were introduced rather late on, making the play a little too long. This however, is more a criticism of the play itself rather than this particular production. One must bear in mind that these criticisms must be seen as comparative to the high standard of the production, which makes them minor flaws rather than major issues.


I do not want to give away too much about the ending, so I will simply say it was heart-rending and left members of the audience visibly shaking and tearful. I certainly walked home with tears running down my face! I feel that this is a show that will be talked about for a long time, and therefore urge everyone to go and see it- you will not be disappointed.

31 October 2014

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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