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Subject Mater - Old Red Lion Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

SUBJECT Mater, a new play from Franco-Swiss writer Nadia Cavelle, runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre from July 15 to July 20, 2019, prior to its Edinburgh Fringe run in August.

Subject Mater is a story of three siblings and their attempt to come to terms with their mother, her life and the impact it has had on them. In so doing, it takes audiences into a world that is at once familiar yet alien, domestic yet absurd.

A form-pushing new play by Nadia Cavelle (Bruises, Lascivious Grace), Subject Mater is a loosely autobiographical and daringly imaginative journey into the parent/child relationship and what it takes to break free.

Three siblings. A kitchen. A box full of cassette tapes left behind by their mother. On them, only titles – one for every chapter of her life. Together, the siblings engage in a ritual game of make-believe. As they uncover the reality behind their mother’s veneer, an absurd and dystopian world emerges, where kitchen appliances become people and the perfect dysfunctional family is resurrected. Will they get out of the kitchen, or is it all too much too late?

Writer Nadia Cavelle said: “In many ways, I feel this play chose me rather than me choosing to write it. A string of sentences came to me one day, I typed them and 50 pages followed. Looking back at the first draft, I realise I’d written an impulse more than a play. The process of giving it a beginning, a middle and an end – with the incredibly discerning guidance of Oliver Dawe – has made me grow so much as a writer.”

Director Oliver Dawe said: “Nadia is anything and everything except British; she seems to be from everywhere apart from here and consequently so is her writing. It stems from a European theatrical tradition, at times it can sound a bit like Beckett, looks a lot like Genet and could possibly be mistaken for Marguerite Duras. It is experimental, absurd, and above all, reveals truth and exposes the trash.

“Collaborating with Nadia and our extraordinarily talented cast and creative team to bring Subject Mater to life on stage has been thrilling, challenging and above all thought-provoking. It is a beautiful, dark, tender and uncompromising exploration of parenting, mothers and ourselves. I can’t wait for audiences to experience this bold and form-pushing new play.”

Subject Mater is produced by London-based company Woven Voices, which seeks to create and develop compelling content for screen and stage. Its credits include short films Lascivious Grace (Underwire Festival 2017, BIFF 2018 and BFI Flare 2018), Girls Don’t Cry and Talking Traffic (WIFF 2016 and Rencontres du Court 2017) as well as critically acclaimed new play Bruises. The company is interested in exploring subjects including multiculturalism, identity, feminism, gender and sexuality.

The play is written by Nadia Cavelle (Bruises, Lascivious Grace) and directed by Oliver Dawe (Frau Welt, Pink Confetti). It stars Cavelle herself (Tartuffe, Beautiful Damned), Zachary Fall (Poldark, Versailles) and Lorna Nickson Brown (The Bookshop, Of Mice and Men).

To book tickets for the Old Red Lion run, call 0333 012 4963 or visit

Also at the Old Red Lion Theatre: Crystal Clear (July 23 to August 17, 2019).