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The Theatreguide.London Review

Topless Mum
Tricycle Theatre      Summer 2008

A tabloid buys what turns out to be a faked war atrocity photo and then tries to salvage something out of the debacle by turning the soldier who conned them into a hero making a political statement (and his wife into a glamour model).

Ron Hutchinson's play starts out as a clever and telling satire on journalistic non-ethics and a serious examination of the moral ambiguities of war. But it loses its focus by trying to do both, and several other things, at once.

There are a few too many plot twists beyond the summary above; a few too many shifts in focus, from the paper to the soldier to his wife to the military establishment to another soldier and back; a few too many shifts in tone, from comic to serious to angry to sympathetic to melodramatic and back; a few too many changes in the play's attitude toward soldiers, from admiration to contempt to sympathy and back.

The result is a play that is something less than the sum of its parts, even though many of those parts - particularly those built around the newspaper's dealings with the not-so-unsophisticated soldier and his wife - are both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Alistair Wilkinson goes far toward making a real character out of the soldier who is written more as a symbolic figure and plot device than a person, and Emma Lowndes conquers something of the same challenge as the too-easily-conned reporter.

Louise Kempton as the soldier's wife and real brains behind the con, and Giles Fagan as the tabloid editor who knows he's a whore but also knows how good he is at it, both have more to play with and bring the most life to the play.

Sylvestra Le Touzel as an army lawyer and Jason Deer as a confused soldier do what they can with characters who seem to have wandered in from some other play.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Topless Mum - Tricycle  Theatre 2008


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