Stockard Channing and Rebecca Night are both brilliant, and tormented, as mother (Thelma) and daughter (Jessie) in ’Night, Mother now playing at the Hampstead Theatre.
Jessie, you see, is ready to commit suicide. She’s depressed, unhappy, divorced, estranged from her son, and still hasn’t come to grips with the death of her father. She had moved in with her mother after her divorce to gather her thoughts, and to try to get her life back in some kind of order – but it didn’t. Thelma tries to talk Jessie out of committing suicide – that she has a lot to live for, and that if she kills herself she’s killing her too. This 80 minute conversation all takes place in a dated 1970’s house while Jessie continues to give her mom exact instructions as to what to do after her suicide, but Thelma is just not accepting what’s about to happen – and neither are we.
This drama is all set in the confines of the cozy Hampstead theatre, where the audience appears to be eavesdropping on a very intimate, and unbelievable, conversation between mother and daughter. And both Channing and Night nail their roles. Legend Channing, who was last on a London stage in 2018 (in Apologia) is as strong as ever, in a performance that will win her awards. Stage actress Night is just as good. With subtle and gentle direction by Roxana Silbert, all working with a devastating script by Marsha Norman (‘Night, Mother was also a 1986 film starring Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft), ‘Night, Mother will still shock you even though you know how it ends.
Photo by Marc Brenner
Review by Tim Baros