Medicine at the Hope Theatre, London | Review

Medicine: written by Meghan Tyler – Photographer Alex Fine

It’s an end of the pier show. Moira-Bridget teeters on the edge, contemplating the swirly brine below, determined to put an end to her depression by jumping in and letting it all wash over her. Margaret, her mother, resplendent in pink jim-jams and pound shop quilted dressing gown, stands back along the pier trying to persuade her troubled daughter to come back to the warmth of home. It’s stupid-o’clock, it’s cold and they only have a bottle of Ma’s “expensive” (8 quid) white wine for company. And the prevalent darkness is due to more than just the absence of sun.

Medicine is a play about depression and suicide and family and those “difficult” mother-daughter relationships. It’s a one location two-hander (until the end with the arrival of Moira-Bridget’s Dad, Gerald, for an effective but, rather thankless cameo). It starts strongly, engaging the audience, but we soon see that the hour-long piece has nowhere new to go and thus becomes trapped in circular dialogue, continuously re-rehearsed teenage angst littered with what become rather tired jokes about that white wine and the various receptacles for the drinking of. I think writer Meghan Tyler really misses a trick here. As mother and daughter recall the various events and interludes from their chequered past, hardly ever moving from their fixed spots on the pier – apart from sitting on a bench together at one point – the single location, one lighting state and monotonous waves effect on repeat become an increasingly tedious and a tad irritating narrative. Surely there is big scope hear for the use of flashbacks with the two characters re-enacting the highlights from their past – with changed lighting, different effects and music, and the chance for the two performers to show that they are more, much more, than the cardboard cut-out stereotypes that they become. We would then have some action rather than just standing around and, I believe, the depression theme would be explored much more effectively.

Tyler herself takes on the role of Moira-Bridget: she’s a strong performer with excellent vocal skills but one can’t help thinking that, teetering on the edge of that pier for the duration, she is acting in a strait-jacket of her own devising. As the writer, she might have a clearer idea of how the character needs to develop if she stood outside and watched someone else play the role.

Lynsey-Anne Moffat, as Margaret, copes well with what is pretty much a thankless task: don’t move from that tight little spot on stage; stay in the present and just report the backstory; attempt to understand your daughter’s plight from twenty paces and occasionally take off your dressing-gown and put it on again. Director Paul Brotherston has to hold up his hand here – it is his job to afford his actors some freedom – especially of movement – and to help them to open up the script and let some very necessary light into what is a dark theme. The production needs to be braver: restrictions need to be lifted. Hopefully, further development will mould this piece into the dramatic exploration of depression that it professes to be.

3 stars

Review by Peter Yates

‘You’ll catch your death out here.’
‘Well I’m not here to catch a bus, am I?’

One howling night in Northern Ireland, Ma discovers Moira on the edge of Warrenpoint pier, full of cheap whiskey and desperate to end it all…

Is it too late to bring her daughter home?

MEDICINE is a quick-witted tragicomedy by the up-and-coming, award-winning playwright Meghan Tyler. This beautiful tale, set against the wild backdrop of the Irish sea, explores the primal bond between a mother and her daughter. Boldly funny and achingly sad, MEDICINE captures the uncompromising way our lives can become suffocated by the effects of mental illness.

Off The Middle are delighted to be returning to The Hope Theatre with MEDICINE after the critically claimed success of IN OTHER WORDS.

14 Aug – 1 Sept
The Hope Theatre

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