Lady Parts Theatre’s production of Laura-Kate Barrow’s latest work is a sensitive handling of some difficult subject matter - alcoholism and domestic abuse - and explores the impact on familial relationships.
With this production, Lady Parts Theatre provides a voice for women and in the mouse’s words, a “story for the next generation”.
“Tell me the story,” demands seven year old Millie of her mother, Ella. Millie’s favourite story is a reworking of Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse. Reworked both by the playwright and Millie’s mother, the tale serves as an allegory for the mother’s relationship with Millie’s, for the most part, absent father. As the domestic story unfolds, Ella’s relationship with her sister, Sally, becomes increasingly strained – initially, when Ella’s well-intentioned protectiveness of her daughter clashes with Sally’s ‘tell it how it is’ philosophy (which also provides humour) - and later, as Sally’s own protectiveness of her sister and niece comes into play. More disturbingly, the effects of the domestic situation start to take their toll on Millie, who uses her teddies to play out her parent’s arguments and is forced to take responsibility too young.
Adults playing children is a difficult act to pull off convincingly. Nuala Maguire as Millie does so with great skill, capturing the energy and inquisitiveness of a seven year old through constant fidgeting and motion, enhanced by a recognition that children communicate non-verbally through a variety of expressive sounds. Similarly, Esther Dix’s storytelling, increasingly directed at the audience in the form of monologue, avoids the potential danger of sounding patronising. Sarah Keating is fabulously dry as the pragmatic Auntie Sally, whose sarcastic wit provides comic relief from the building tension. Overall, the production manages to handle the drama in a subtle, understated way. Perhaps the play’s only weakness is that the allegory of The Lion and the Mouse seems to shift and change as it is manipulated by Ella to fit her version of events and by the end its use starts to feel a little heavy-handed.
Because She Loved the Lion is a play about denial and the stories we tell ourselves and our children. With this production, Lady Parts Theatre provides a voice for women and in the mouse’s words, a “story for the next generation”.