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Mother’s love conquers all adversity in Matches for Monkeys

Review by Emma Whitelaw

WHEN simple things become insurmountable how do we make them simple again?

We all know that life was never supposed to be easy; but it seems that life is more than unbearable for the characters in Sean Buckley’s Matches for Monkeys now playing at The Chelsea Theatre.

Anne, Declan and Maura don’t live; they simple exist. Instead of taking life by the horns, riding the wave and dealing with its ups and downs, they cower away and hide. It is as though they’ve admitted defeat and choose to let things get on top of them.

That’s not to say that they haven’t had a hard time, Maura has done the best she can in raising her three children.

Her husband died over ten years ago, and her daughter has been in and out of hospital.

She has been through therapy herself and was starting to improve on the program her doctor gave her.

But it now seems that the regiment was too much and she’s starting to let things slide back to what they were.

Mary Duddy is fantastic as Maura; she spends her day in the bath or the airing cupboard locked away from the world.

But despite all this, her love for her children is like any other mother’s. All she wants is the best for them, but it is hard when they too suffer from a self-defeatist attitude.

Her daughter, Anne, played by Carolyn Tomkinson, is forever in and out of therapy.

Tomkinson is absolutely brilliant as the delusional drunk. Her incessant drinking wrecks havoc with her medication and she is adamant that there is a man in her settee.

Her mother knows that it is merely a figment of her imagination but humours her. She is used to her daughter’s drunken antics and is an angel for tolerating her dismal behaviour – as only a mother can do!

Gary Shelford plays the tormented Declan. He is probably the only sane member of his family, but it seems the insanity is spreading its way through him also.

This becomes particularly apparent when a visitor calls upon his home, spreading God’s word. Declan verbally abuses the intruder and sends him screaming from his poor excuse for a home.

Mark Huckett plays the Caller. He is fantastic and I must say he not only stole the show but, in my opinion, he also saved it.

In what can only be described as a depressingly gloomy plot, Huckett enters and lifts the play’s entire mood. He deserves accolades for his hilarious performance, as both the bible bashing Caller, and the Delivery Man.

The recently refurbished Chelsea Theatre is a fantastic venue; the set was very imaginative and was certainly a befitting backdrop for the gloomy goings on. The sound was also very clever.

It was incredibly believable when we’re first introduced to Maura and all we can hear is her in the bath upstairs.

Matches for Monkeys, although depressing in content, is still greatly inspirational.

Its characters may suffer a great deal but there is one thing that shines through the adversity – and that is a mother’s unconditional love.

Matches for Monkeys by Sean Buckley. Directed by Tessa Walker. Starring Carolyn Tomkinson, Gary Shelford, Mary Duddy and Mark Huckett. 22nd June to 17th July at the Chelsea Theatre, Worlds End Place, London SW10. Box Office 0870 990 8454.

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