If Only at The Bread & Roses
Canadian playwright Michel Tremblay kicks off a new season at The Bread & Roses Theatre in Clapham with a moving homage to a figure many of us take for granted. Primarily set in 1950s Montreal, If Only paints an intimate and intricate portrait of Tremblay’s mother, who encouraged her son’s artistic pursuits, but tragically did not live to see his global success.
Funny and poignant in equal measure, the story centres around conversations between the playwright and his mother at five different moments in their lives. From hyperbolic scolding to a charming over-analysis of French folk tales, Tremblay portrays his mother as a naturally exuberant person with a flair for the dramatic – a woman so entranced by stories, she often embellished her ordinary life with them.
Alexandra Grierson, (who replaces the original lead, Marianne Adams, who was recently taken ill) confidently embodies this refreshingly rich maternal figure, while Monty d’Inverno is instantly endearing as young Michel. The comedic timing between the pair is spot on, and the use of broad Scottish brogues adds a provincial familiarity to the French translation.
As Michel grows older, the nostalgic theme of the play becomes more pronounced and it seems that the playwright doesn’t want the story to end. Unfinished with his mother’s vivid characterisation, Tremblay sets out to rewrite her death, in order to create her perfect fairytale ending.
Stephen Whitson’s direction is delicate and precise, perfectly complementing the nuances of Tremblay’s exquisite script. The result is a touching exploration of this mother-son relationship, original in its tender yet honest treatment of its central characters. Most notably, it is Tremblay’s unwavering devotion to his mother’s memory, which delivers in just under 80 minutes an unforgettable figure who is both universal and one-of-a-kind.
If Only is on at the Bread & Roses Theatre until 11th January 2015, for further information or to book visit here.