Writer-performer Amy Conway’s new piece takes the form of a verbatim performance of three interviews: one with her mother, one with her grandmother, and one with herself. Headphones in her ears, Conway plays the interviews to herself and acts out what she hears out loud for our benefit, moving between three little stage sets whenever she changes character to help distinguish the three different voices.
These are three warm, pleasant people, and it is enjoyable to spend time with them.
Conway’s performance is of a high standard. She obviously knows her mother and grandmother very well, so her performances of each have nothing of the “generic” quality we too often see when the young impersonate the old. Instead, her mannerisms are personal and natural, from the relaxed confidence of her extrovert grandmother to the slightly rigid warmth and intelligence of her mother. Conway's impressions of herself are, of course, reasonably convincing, and the slight disconnect between the version of her we see when she is repeating her own words, compared with when she is speaking to the audience directly, is a nice way of illustrating the distance created by the theatrical device.
These are three warm, pleasant people, and it is enjoyable to spend time with them. Their lives span an interesting period of time, and there are a few nods to the ways in which social roles have changed over the last 60 years. However, the play stops short of providing us with any real revelations, and it’s because the format makes this impossible. Conway's family are obviously happy and functional, which means none of them are ever going to say anything that might upset anyone else who might see this play – and that’s everyone who matters in their lives. The result is three interviews in which the participants are willing to reminisce and describe, but never do more than hint at anything negative. Indeed, on the one or two occasions when something bigger looms, the production quickly shies away again. The outcome is a play with virtually no conflict at all.
The finished production has presumably been cut together from hours of footage into this hour-or-so, and it is a shame this hasn’t been done with some kind of thesis in mind. The structure of these three intercutting interviews could have been used to draw some sort of conclusion, and the lack of an overarching narrative means the play never gains a sense of universal interest. A play about three women, across three generations, should have big themes: family, ageing, the changing role of women, even. It should say something about all our lives. Instead, it is content to simply be about these particular three people, and that is rather a wasted opportunity.
Still, even if it doesn’t achieve anything particularly grand, it is very pleasant to spend an hour with three such lovely people.