Eleemosynary

Mon 12th – Sat 24th August 2013

reviews

Joshua Adcock

at 04:51 on 18th Aug 2013

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'Eleemosynary' is a play about love. Love of words, love of people, and love of the freedom to be yourself, but inevitably it is also a play about resentment and selfishness. It relates the story of three multigenerational relationships; between mother and daughter, grandmother and granddaughter, and mother and daughter again.

The multi-layered plot unfolds gradually and with a subtle beauty, revealing the intimate and sometimes shameful stories of each of the characters. The plot ebbs and flows; the stories of each of the women conflict with each other and struggle for supremacy, with each one occasionally stepping out of the stream of narrative to narrate directly to the audience. These moments were well handled and structured, gracefully flowing between scenes. Although in effect there were no scenes; each section commented on the next, or the one that preceded it, with graceful delicacy.

Though it portrayed the lives of three rather exceptional and eccentric women, the play managed to feel true to life in many places, particularly the relationships between the three characters, who are constantly torn between push and pull forces, and often motivated by all too human frailties, including fear and self-doubt, and most importantly, egocentrism. A rare example of a play which genuinely explores its own stated issues, it considers the significance of motherhood, the difficulties of child-rearing, and self-reflection as a result of motherhood. The production also manages to adroitly handle the desire to live one’s own life, be one’s own person, and the desire to forget the past and live in the present.

Unfortunately it just seems that the play is missing something, something with "oomph". Somehow it does seem to lack the gentle and endearing touch that a more sentimental or passionate treatment might render. Sometimes it feels a little stale without any musical accompaniment or relief from lighter moments, which would have fleshed the play out. All three roles were extremely well-performed and utterly believable, with the role of Dorothea, the eccentric grandmother given to whimsical outbursts with the air of profundity, performed with particularly apt absent-mindedness.

Overall a good production of a good play, but it unfortunately just didn’t quite do enough to feel truly vibrant, making for a show which wanted to be a little bit more.

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Samuel Graydon

at 10:26 on 18th Aug 2013

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‘Eleemosynary’ is a show much like the word of its title. That is, a little unusual, but quite sweet really. A play (with a little sprinkling of ballet dancing here and there) about the relationship between the three female members of one family; it has much heart, but sometimes was just a little too eccentric.

This was mainly the fault of the grandmother, who really was a bona-fide eccentric. And while this added to the humour of the play, creating some good jokes, and helped add to the uneasy and unstable family relationship that was at the play’s centre, it did, on occasion, just seem a little strange.

Overall, though, the writing was really very good. There was the influx of words used in all readiness for the youngest member of the family - Echo’s spelling bee championships - which were a feat in themselves. I certainly now feel educated in the ways of the makeup of words. Even as a linear story, the plot would have been affecting and funny, but the sporadic timeline, coupled with the very heavy amount of narration, worked well with the events of the story. It also found interesting contrasts between the actions of the generations of a family, by doing it in this chronologically chopped and fourth-wall breaking manner. And, although it seems odd to say, the words themselves ran smoothly and almost poetically into one another, it almost felt as if there was rhythm behind the words.

Yet, somehow, I felt a little disappointed by the play. And this is slightly strange, for as I have said, the script was very good in places and the story likewise. It was more an unfortunate lack of that magic spark that makes theatre truly brilliant. This seems somewhat severe to say, but there was just something in the dynamics that did not add up to the sum of its rather good parts.

‘Eleemosynary’ is a good and warming play, but somehow it left me wishing that it had been something more.

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