Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Douglas Maxwell has long charted the travails of terminal adolescents in search of themselves, and this new play for Birmingham Rep, continues the trend. The difference here, though, is that, in Gerry, the damaged kid who believes in the stories he’s told so hard that he’s about to be beamed up back to his home planet, Maxwell is extending the boundaries of his own world as well as his characters.
It’s Gerry’s brother Eliot who the play concentrates on most, though, as he leads the chase to find his sibling, taking in his own rites of passage en route in an amphibious car left to the boys by their dead father. Also on board are Eliot’s pregnant step-mum, a police-man called Constable, Eliot’s lifeguard best mate and a girl who writes pornographic fiction in homage to her space-boy heroes.
All wrapped up in layers of obsessive science-fiction geekery, Ben Payne’s production is a playfully inventive delight which, on Chloe Lamford’s expansive set dominated by a map of the cosmos, allows Maxwell’s script free rein.
The play itself is the sort of multi-layered feel-good drama usually served best by television. By putting its charmingly flawed turn of events onstage, however, it’s gentle probing into what make us who we are become all the more appealing. Young audiences particularly, who The Mother Shop is squarely aimed at, will easily relate to how insular imaginations can run free.
Sentiment can’t be avoided, and in this context nor should it in a play that’s about birth as much as rebirth, about finding somewhere nice to land in a world gone mad, and ultimately about coming home.
The Herald, March 27th 2008