First seen a decade ago, British based Canadian playwright Evan Placey’s debut play has lost none of its stark immediacy in this timely revival at The Park Theatre in London. Set in a snowy Toronto in the late 90s, Mother of Him never leaves the Kapowiitz household where single mother Brenda struggles to come to terms with teenage son Matthew’s conviction for triple rape on one night.
With the paparazzi camped outside and Matthew under house arrest, Brenda is fighting for her son to be sentenced as a child while at the same time fearing she has raised a monster.
Tracey-Ann Oberman gives a bravura performance as Brenda, capturing the anger, guilt and sheer incomprehension triggered by Matthew’s catastrophic fall from grace. Why did he do it?
Brenda is a successful Jewish businesswoman who remains committed to passing on solid values to her children even in such impossible circumstances. The Hanukkah scene in which a candle from her younger son’s recent birthday party is stuck on top of their Menorah because the proper candles have been forgotten is particularly touching.
The play provides no definite answers. We never learn Matthew’s sentence. Scott Folan’s goofy Matthew is impossible to read – he never gives us any reason for his actions.
There is excellent support from Simon Hepworth as Robert, Matthew’s lawyer who tries to help Matthew and also advises on how to deal with the media-driven anger that is being directed not at Matthew but his mother. As it’s set in the 90s before social media the press hound Brenda as Matthew is a juvenile – the end of part one was a chaotic break down for Brenda (played brilliantly by Oberman) and you realise how hard her role is as a mother in this situation.
Matt Goldberg as Jason brilliantly captures a younger sibling’s torn loyalties the role is played jointly with Hari Aggarwal. Matt Goldberg who performed the role of Jason in the performance I saw was one to watch – great at holding the Canadian dialect and showcasing the youth and innocence of not understanding what is happening to the family. There was great chemistry between Scott Folan and Matt Goldberg especially when Matthew gives Jason his hoodie in a millennial coming of age ritual.
Evan Placey’s dialogue is bracing and credible as it makes plain that this is a nightmare could happen to any mother. The play is based on a true story of one of Evan’s friends, who was put under house-arrest pending sentencing.
Max Lindsay’s production generates claustrophobia – a bit like a prison cell and Lee Newby’s grey-blocks set drains colour literally and metaphorically.
As a woman desperately trying to hold her family together, Oberman leaves a lasting impression. Mother of Him is fast, and it’s got a dry wit to it. Very moving and an amazing female character lead in Brenda. There are some great observations about families, mothers, children, working women, love and forgiveness. It’s a really profound, gripping piece of drama.