Mrs Lowry & Son at Trafalgar Studios
Coinciding with the 126th birthday of Lawrence Lowry and written by BAFTA nominee Martyn Hesford, Mrs Lowry & Son presents the heart-wrenching true story of an artist who sought to please his mother. It was only after she died, in 1939, that he experienced his first success, gaining international acknowledgement.
After his father died in 1932, Lowry, a debt collector who painted desolate scenes of working life, spent several years looking after his “invalid” mother in a two-up two-down in Manchester. Mrs Lowry resented her son’s industrial paintings, which she saw as an embarrassment to her social standing. Lowry was thus only able to paint at night in the attic after his mother had settled.
Mrs Lowry & Son is an insight into the stifling relationship of an unhappy widow and her devoted but lonely son. The artist’s mother, played by the captivating June Watson, is bitter and infuriating yet, importantly, understandably human. She made Lowry what he was, in his art and in himself, and at the same time held him back from becoming it. This contradiction is something universally relatable and captures brilliantly how family bonds can be loving but simultaneously steeped in bitterness and selfishness.
The play is both a comedy and a tragedy: both characters have the ability to provoke true laughter and genuine sorrow. In the case of Lowry this comes from the way he humours his mother’s demands while allowing her to dominate his life. The entire play takes place in Mrs Lowry’s bedroom, creating an overwhelming intensity that hangs in the air – it brings the text to life, implicit with years of unspoken resentment and sadness for a life that hasn’t lived up to expectations.
Despite his assertion, “she did not understand my painting but she understood me and that was enough” – in much of Lowry’s art there is a sadness that reflects the artist’s personal isolation and his struggle to see the world the way his mother wanted him to.
Mrs Lowry & Son is at Trafalgar Studios until Saturday 23rd November 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.