Retreat- Review by Helen O’Leary
Having spent all her adult life at home as a carer, Aunt Maura, now in her late fifties is left feeling alone and adrift following the death of her elderly mother. When the other mourners have dispersed, Maura has a large and empty house in which to muse on the remainder of her life. An over-whelming prospect particularly when the only role you’ve ever known has just disappeared. Floundering in the vacuum and struggling mentally to adjust to life’s upheaval, Maura’s well-meaning nephew Jason arrives home from Australia. He is eager to help Maura adapt. The pair have a robust rapport and there is plenty verbal sparing and tender reminiscing of times past. Jason’s main solution to Maura’s fragile state however is enrolment in a FAS course. Unfortunately these well- intentioned suggestions cannot halt the deep and devastating depression into which Maura descends. Ultimately she is admitted to a psychiatric hospital for professional help.
The accomplished Charlotte Bradley lights up the stage with her performance as Maura. She is playful and witty while giving the audience glimpses of a younger version of herself. As she becomes aware of her mind becoming “muddy” she lashes out in frustration at those around her. Her appearance is transformed in the hospital and the formerly neat and prim hairdo is replaced with a wild nest of hair, disordered and chaotic like in her mind.
Andy Kellegher playing the slightly banal nephew Jason doesn’t have as expansive a character but his role as kindly nephew is well executed.
The play is loosely based on experiences of the writer Geoff Power’s own family. The personal element is palpable in the writing especially in capturing the tender elements of the relationship between aunt and nephew. His dialogue is flowing, and realistic without being bland.
As well as dealing with the important and topical issue of depression. This play also acknowledges the many unsung and undervalued carers who sacrificed so much personally to care for elderly parents. This duty must have been simultaneously a privilege and a burden, and the delicate topic is well handled by Geoff Power and producer Karina Buckley.
This is poignant and moving piece of theatre. It is well worthwhile catching it at the New Theatre before the week’s end.
Retreat runs at the New Theatre until March 8th.