Northern Stage’s NORTH Takeover: And She, VAULT Festival

Image result for and she, vault festival

by Isabel Becker

We get it. We do. Angst about our mothers – their infuriating quirks, the emotional and psychological damage passed down to us as though encased in our very DNA – it’s an oasis of material. The complexities of the mother-child relationship hold such potential for theatrical exploration, as we have seen from classical tragic melodramas like Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex to modern commercial musicals like Hairspray.

Yet, unfortunately, Bonnie and the Bonnettes’ production And She, a musical play centred around this maternal theme, missed the mark for joining the likes of such successful productions by quite a long way. What was intended to be a jab at three mother-child relationships packed into one 60-minute show was actually an incoherent attempt at weaving together three stories that only scratch the surface. And She is a well-meaning, yet plainly shallow production.

Three performers narrate similar battles with their respective mothers, with pleasant acting, neat choreography but with some unfavourable musical numbers. Primarily, a lack of depth, nuance and surprise within the storylines prevent this production from achieving a professional sheen. In addition to this bland foundation, several other elements turned any remaining merits sour. The originally-written pop ballads and pop- rock songs that Bonnie and the Bonettes sporadically perform – with lyrics as fittingly unimaginative as the pop genre in general – are a well-intended touch, but most of the time lacked charm or spark. Lyrics such as “stop spending so much money on me…it makes me feel guilty”, “stop using Chanel no.5 as room spray” and “stop putting the butter knife in the jam”, in what is meant to be the star song, give a sense of this show’s mediocre standards. There are other unprofessional elements, such as backing singers overpowering main singers, that need major revision.

Entertainment can of course be simultaneously shallow and superb, if executed with intelligent nuance that makes the production somehow memorable. And She has a lot of work to do before gaining such status; a metamorphic transformation of storyline depth  is needed to reach such a goal.

And She runs through 9 February.

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