The Distance – at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
Liz Vercoe praises latest production of play about friendship and parenting
So, is it a fact of life that women are natural mothers and nurturers? Or not? What if they discover, after having children, that they are in such alien territory they want to get out. Are such women bad? Or mad? Or simply misguided... hoodwinked by a dominant partner, perhaps? Or are they possibly right to act on it?
Pic- Johan Persson
This is the conundrum two friends, bossy-boots Kate (Charlotte Lucas) and ditsy Alex (Charlotte Emerson), find themselves facing – or would do if they could see the world from any perspective other than their own – when their old chum Bea (Michelle Duncan in the role Helen Baxendale created last year) tips up from Australia asking for help but is not specific about what sort.
The attempts of the two to rekindle their old easy friendship with the third, soon reveal that more crucial stuff than years and mileage has intervened to scatter them in different directions. Life has certainly tested each of their coping mechanisms and the end results haven't always been pretty. Written by Deborah Bruce, the excellent script is sharply funny one second and prods as precisely as a fencing foil the next. Gradually the back story to Kate's constant nagging of her long-suffering husband Dewi (Daniel Hawksford, returning to play this former pop-star-with-a-history) is revealed alongside the central plot. With his spliff-smoking brother Vinnie (Steven Meo) banished to the garden shed, where Alex also occasionally takes refuge, theirs is a family saga in many ways richer than Bea's inner struggle with her husband and two small boys back in Melbourne.
And in the end, it's this exchange, more than any between the mystified "grown ups", that makes sense of Bea's ultimate decision.