Written by Amelia Bullmore, Directed by Anna Mackmin
Bush Theatre
Liverpool Playhouse, 14th-18th March 2006

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Once in a while a play comes along that connects the dots, speaks the mind of a generation and smacks the viewer across the face with its incredible relevance. ‘This is now,’ it says, ‘deal with it‘. The audience leaves feeling richer for their experience, knowing both themselves and the world that little bit better, and having had a great evening's entertainment into the bargain. Suffice to say Amelia Bullmore's Mammals is not one of those wonderful plays. Instead, it’s oh so far from such hallowed status that sometimes it actually hurts.

Jane (Niamh Cusack) and Kev (Daniel Ryan) are a fairly standard thirty-something couple. He works too hard and doesn't get home as much as he'd like to, she is forever picking up after the kids and hasn't read a book for five years. When their best friends Phil (Mark Bonnar) and Lorna (Anna Chancellor) arrive for patter about handbags and bottle after bottle of wine, long buried secrets are gradually revealed. If you've got a feeling of deja vu, that's because it's all been done so much better so many times before. In vino veritas, as every fourth rate ink slinger learned from watching ‘Abigail‘s Party‘ or whatever.

At one point I thought the play was going to be about something, when Kev declared that we are all "mammals at the mercy of urges". But this potential theme was never developed, and it was as if the whole play had been (poorly) built around that one interesting line. Though this is Amelia Bullmore's first outing as a playwright, she has worked with such risk takers as Steve Coogan and Chris Morris in the past. Unfortunately, little of their flair for pushing the creative envelope appears to have rubbed-off on her. The only even slightly interesting decision was the casting of two adults - Helena Lymbery and the show-stealing Jane Hazlegrove - as the children. Their full-size bodies and perfectly observed kidspeak often served as mirrors of the grown-up world around them. But with one paced acting from the rest of the cast and more feeble plot devices than you can shake your head at, Mammals quickly descended into ITV comedy drama irrelevance.

Printer friendly page