Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 22 Sept 2017
Claire Wong and Noorlinah Mohamed are long-time friends and collaborators in the performing arts. Both hailing from Singapore, they embody the cultural and racial mix of the Malay Peninsula. Being middle-aged women, they would often discuss their relationships with their ageing mothers: and those conversations eventually became this ever-evolving theatre piece, Recalling Mother.
Using a bare set, two chairs and back-projection screen, Wong and Mohamed begin speaking to the audience about the journey, both theatrical and personal, that brought them here. They then move seamlessly into a series of conversations about, and with, their mothers: Wong sometimes breaking into Cantonese, and Mohamed into Malay. Translations are flashed onto the screen, in such a way that they become part of the show, rather than a distraction. The two chairs are used as a variety of objects and even become, in the last minutes of the show, the mothers themselves. These are two skilled performers, able to physicalize ageing in a way which is authentic and respectful.
Written and directed by the two performers, this is a deeply personal, and yet universal work. Many of us of Anglo-Celtic extraction could still chuckle at the eccentricities portrayed, as most of us have known older, Asian women. And we have all had mothers, in one form or another.
The matinee production was full of school groups: it is a testament to the power of this work that often restless teenagers were silent and engrossed. This also tells something of the accessibility of the writing.
This is a performance oozing with humanity, and humour, and warmth. It is pitched at just the right level, and is a hymn to mothers everywhere. It is also theatre at its most raw, fundamental and authentic, firmly rooted in the story-telling tradition.
Review by Tracey Korsten
Venue: Space Theatre
Season: Until 23 Sept 2017
Duration: 1 hour 10 mins