Written by Esther Wilson
Directed by Polly Teale
(13th June - 5th July 2008)
Not about a baby, but about her babies - now grown-up sons who want to
stand tall and strong without their mother’s help. The lads will
always be her babies.
Esther Wilson, writer of this remarkable play - which has been brought
to life by director Polly Teale - has swiftly stolen all the stages I’ve
seen so far in this year of celebration and culture. The mega-talented
cast deliver an often funny, but intensely sad tale of a Liverpool family
torn apart by the not-war war of 'peacekeeping' in Iraq.
Here we have a condensed version of events since the search began for
Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. This includes a cinema screen
backdrop littering intermittent newsreel, of which we are all familiar.
This true story, conveniently ignored by those whose lives are untouched,
is at last screamed loud enough to be heard.
A Liverpudlian myself, I’m pleased to confirm to you that dialogue
is definitely spot-on. I laughed along with everyone else, but realised
my immune head was slowly being lifted from its long burial in the sand.
Emotional horror of war is undeniable here; as it is cleverly integrated
with an appropriate balance of humour, enabling the viewer to find a parallel
of self in any of the few characters and to not look away. Unspoken bouts
of seriousness configure snappy twists of laughter into a ringing wake-up
A solemn clanging of a hand-bell is followed by a crier’s announcement
of soldier’s battalion, rank, name and age when killed. This is
a resounding theme from Joanna Bacon who plays protestor Maya Johnson.
What does all this mean to a Liverpudlian mother who, with ferocious
pride, has a primitive sense to protect her sons? Gill Kent (played by
Lisa Parry) is the type of mum who would make a world leader cower in
a corner. A complex, formidable role, beautifully acted.
Disillusioned dad turns to drink. Mike Kent (Barry McCormick, who also
plays uppity Colonel Weston) is a failure of a peacekeeper in the family
home. He is a deliberately understated figure throughout the first half;
effectively suppressing his feelings in order to avoid conflict with his
wilful wife. However, he gives a terrifically moving portrayal of a desperate
dad as the plot unfolds to cause an eruption of those suppressed feelings.
We are treated to a lively interaction throughout from lead actors David
Lyons and Joe Shipman, playing older brother, Michael, and younger, Chris,
respectively. They excel in performance of equally challenging roles.
I hope they will receive the wide acclaim they deserve.
Going off on a tangent from the main thread, we have a glimpse of the
ever-typical military family class division, a daring debateable suggestion
of diligent peace protestors conjuring a futile party atmosphere, and
finally, probably most importantly, a feature of how mobile or internet
communication allows anyone, from mother to soldier (via satellite technology)
to interpret or misinterpret the changing face of war, by the push of
One emotionally bombed family copes with tragedy while the rest of us
eat our daily bread, read our daily papers, and have our daily moan about
the cost of oil, and high taxation.
Ten Tiny Toes received the standing ovation it truly deserved. I hope
you manage to get your ticket