Peter Gill's Sleepers Den screams out to be compared with the Beauty Queen of Leenane. It is set in a poor community, this time in Cardiff rather than rural Ireland, with a mother daughter relationship at it's heart and a subtext of mental illness.
Old Mrs Shannon is virtually bedridden and daughter, Mrs Shannon, only goes out to the shops spending the rest of the time looking after her mother, daughter Maria and brother Frankie who spends most of his time out.
As the play progresses the needy mother/daughter relationship shifts and there are hints that the daughter has been ill in the past. Sound familiar? Well sadly if you hold Sleepers Den up to the Beauty Queen mirror then something comparatively plain and boring is going to reflect back.
Aside from one woman laughing almost hysterically at inappropriate moments there was no humour, nor indeed anything to distract from the Riverside Studio's uncomfortable plastic chairs.
As @polyg so rightly put it: "Depression doesn't have to be so depressing." But sadly it was. As unhinged as the mother turned out to be, there was more energy in kitchen table's performance. My mind worked overtime imagining potential twists and reveals but it was wishful thinking.
A charity worker visits. The club money man visits. But you get nothing of the characters pasts, relationships or motives just the merest hint that something, long ago might offer some vague explanation for what is going on in the house.
Instead there is lots of obsessing over cups of tea and a tea cup gets smashed. There was a lacklustre threat to stab the mother in her sleep with one of those old fashioned, round-ended, bone handled table knives your gran always had but that is as good as it got. Perhaps they only allow round-ended knives just in case the actors want to harm themselves in an attempt to liven things up a little.
Maybe a different director and a different production would shed a whole new light on the point of this play but I can't say I'll be rushing to see it if it ever is revived.
It gets a bored and frustrated two Stan stars earning an extra star for not making me angry.
I'm determined to get something positive out of this whole experience so here goes. It's a bit lame but Charlotte Moore who plays Mrs Shannon was in Marilyn the Musical at the Greenwich Playhouse, where last year I saw Philip Ridley in a Q&A and I've seen Mr Whishaw in Leaves of Glass at the Soho Theatre which is a Philip Ridley play. Told you it was lame.