Mother Lorraine (Siobhan Redmond), at 55 has decided to have a another baby with the help of surrogate Sera (Angela Terence). Having had four daughters she wants a son. She invites her brood over on the eve of her birthday to tell them about her plans and introduce Sera who is 7 months pregnant. Cue melt down from the four.
Karen (Debbie Chazen) is the eldest at 35, worried about being overweight, single and childless. Mimi (Natasha Gordon) is the next eldest and so named because of tendancy towards self-obsession. She has a successful career, is not interested in children or marriage and judges everyone by her own success.
Claire (Laura Elphinstone) is the second youngest and a serial student who only moved out of her mother's house a year or so ago. She lacks self confidence, is needy and easily upset while 15-year old Beckah (Farzana Dua Elahe) is just a typical moody teen, huffing about and getting overly upset by silly things. In fact all are paranoid, borderline neurotic and easily upset.
It is at times witty, funny and revealing but equally Beckwith's characters are so lacking in redeeming qualities that if this is the best we can do with portraying women and examining contemporary feminine issues then it is a little depressing.
There was no warmth between the brood. Each is caught up in their own world and sense of entitlement that when the display of sisterly love and support does finally arrive it feels tacked on and fake. It's a little too late.
With more toned down characters there was a real chance of examining some interesting issues - the perception of older women, single women and childless woman and the pressures placed on women to stay young and beautiful. A strong and independent woman doesn't have to mean selfish and arrogant, and neither does the lack of a male presence equal neurotic and needy.
Untitled Matriarch Play is an enjoyable enough ride at times but it lets itself down by falling into easy stereotype. It runs at the Royal Court Theatre downstairs until Saturday.