EMPTY NEST: Graham Hopkins and Anna-Mart van der Merwe in the production, The Mother. Picture: DANIEL RUTLAND MANNERS
EMPTY NEST: Graham Hopkins and Anna-Mart van der Merwe in the production, The Mother. Picture: DANIEL RUTLAND MANNERS
EMPTY NEST: Graham Hopkins and Anna-Mart van der Merwe in the production, The Mother. Picture: DANIEL RUTLAND MANNERS
EMPTY NEST: Graham Hopkins and Anna-Mart van der Merwe in the production, The Mother. Picture: DANIEL RUTLAND MANNERS
EMPTY NEST: Graham Hopkins and Anna-Mart van der Merwe in the production, The Mother. Picture: DANIEL RUTLAND MANNERS
EMPTY NEST: Graham Hopkins and Anna-Mart van der Merwe in the production, The Mother. Picture: DANIEL RUTLAND MANNERS
THE MOTHER. A 90-minute one-act drama by French playwright Florian Zeller. With Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Graham Hopkins, Sven Ruygrok, Amy-Louise Wilson. Directed by Janice Honeyman. At the Fugard Theatre until March 4.

Review: Sheila Chisholm

“LOVE is proved in the letting go.” 

So wrote Cecil Day-Lewis in his poem Walking Away, a poem where a father laments watching his young son walk away with friends, without either a wave or backward glance. Letting go with love is what most parents (try) to do. But it is not what Anne (Anna-Mart van der Merwe) is capable of. She’s loved her son Nicolas (Sven Ruygrok) since birth with a possessiveness bordering on strangulation. 

Now at 25 he’s living with his “slut” of a girlfriend, Elodie (Amy-Louise Wilson). 

He never visits nor answers Anne’s calls and in her longing for him she’s driven to the point of madness.

But is she mad, or at 45 requiring treatment for that depression women often pass through when the nest empties and they find themselves with nothing but themselves to care for? That is what Florian Zeller leaves to the audience to decide, as he takes them on a journey into the mind of a middle-aged woman, who by choice devoted quarter of a century to her family. 

She’s never found a hobby or made friends and is now desperately lonely, as well as hurt and suffering from feelings of rejection. 

The Mother begins with Nicolas van Reenen’s sound replicating blood pulsing through veins. The raised pulse beat indicates Anne’s state of mind, as barefoot in nightwear and loose-fitting dressing-gown, she abstractly walks into view. “Where were you? I called and you weren’t at your office,” is her harsh greeting when Pierre (Graham Hopkins) walks in from work. 

His patient reply “I was in a meeting” finds no ground. He only loses his calm when Anne tells him Nicolas has come home and is asleep in his room. 

Hopkins believes she’s imagining it. When sleepy Nicolas (Sven Ruygrok) appears, he’s stunned, while Anne sneers “I told you so”.

Nicolas’s appearance changes Anne. No longer does she curl in an embryonic position, or distractedly scratch or turn her feet in. She’s energised to the point of lunacy as she hugs and kisses, rubs his hair, changes into her new red dress and wants to take him dancing. She is so happy seeing him one asks “is she in love with her own son?” 

Girlfriend Elodie (Amy- Louise Wilson) is everything Anne hates for her son – rather scruffy and possessive. He’s so in love with her, to Anne’s distress, he prefers Elodie to her. 

Sensitivity is Janice Honeyman’s hallmark when it comes to dealing with “unmentionable” subjects, such as mental health issues. 

Typically she’s carefully tempered the extraordinary passionate relationship a mother can develop for her son with the different characters in a family structure. 

It’s up to French scholars to determine how near Christopher Hampton’s translation is to Zeller’s original script. However, after four exceptional performances depicting how a depressed person can destroy a family, no one left the theatre without taking home the message, depression is a complicated medical condition requiring proper treatment, not over the counter anti-depressant pills. A superb piece of theatre. 

To book, call 021 461 4554, www.thefugard.com and at 
Computicket.