Party Politics

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan, three stars

MOTHER love...It’s like an invisible umbilical cord that nurtures and connects even when it is physically severed at birth. But what if that love becomes overly protective, obsessive even? Well Leanne (Sally Reid) would bridle at any suggestion that her parenting of six-year old Nina was overly possessive and frankly unhealthy for both of them. Even without the various child-rearing books that Leanne has ingested – and will regurgitate during this monologue – her every instinct tells her that a mother’s love must know no boundaries in the battle to keep her precious one from any perceived harm. On this occasion, the Awful Trauma hanging over Nina is the lack of an invitation to a classmate’s ch-chi birthday party.

Lorna Martin’s first play – presented in association with Aberdeen Performing Arts – takes a blackly humorous approach to Leanne’s umbrage and her increasingly irrational solutions to this horrible, damaging exclusion. The histrionic tinge to Leanne’s rantings alerts you to the maelstrom of hurts that still bedevil her own inner child. She will smother-love Nina because she, herself, has never felt loved enough, or wanted in the way she wanted Nina – a passing reference suggests conceiving was a costly process.

If some of Leanne’s tactics smack of improbability, Martin’s writing has a real feel for the pecking order of school-gate snobbery and one-upmanship, and while she exacts some sharp-clawed humour from it, she also lets it speak to Leanne’s own vulnerabilities and, class-conscious neediness.

Reid’s performance is beautifully attuned to this shifting quicksand of emotions: chipper and defiant on the attack, seized by wild-eyed mania as her plans go awry while Maggie Kinloch’s direction encourages the comedy to act as a rocket-launcher for the very real despair that’s driving Leanne’s entire being.