Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2018

The Ballad of the Apathetic Son and his Narcissistic Mother


Genre: Dance and Movement Theatre, Multimedia, Performance Art, Physical Theatre, True-life

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

“This high-energy performance features real-life mother Lucy and her 15-year-old son Raedie. Not much connects them anymore, but they both love the singer Sia. They love her music, her videos and her hair — especially when it moves in a choppy, black-on-platinum swivel. They decided to use the iconic motifs of this Australian pop superstar to make a show about their relationship. So, hold on for dear life through this all-singing, all-dancing journey of rejection, nurture, transforming, hurting and becoming.”


I wish my 14 year old son had come to see this with me. Of course he didn’t; he was lying on a sofa at the time, too apathetic to face the day. Too engrossed with Youtube, and 21 pilots, and snappchatting his friends (Muuuuum thats not even a word and anyway snapchat isn’t cool any more), and watching people talk about playing Fortnite, and watching “would you rather”, and “try not to laugh”, and farting and sleeping and eating and suddenly doing an intense 40 minute workout he found on an app. And then baby face saying, without a hint of sarcasm “Mmm! I love cabbage Mum”, as he tucks into my homemade roast dinner, then then later with unexpected hard edges, sneering at a red stripy top I had put on….”you look like a fat postbox Mum……..only joking Mum!”

I believe him. Mostly.

I had a lovely long walk today with a friend, who also has teenage children, and I talked about this show. I found it hard to put into words why it was so important, why it contributes to the conversation around the pain and the worry of parenting in this time, in this digital age of uncertain future. And as I tried to explain clumsily, she nodded. She got it.

This is a beautiful, tender, heart wrenching exploration of mother son relationships. Of growing up. Of the painful transition time, of teenage confusion. But it is also a reflection, an essay, on our children now, of the quiet terror we all possess as we go about our daily parenting. 

This isn’t a polished piece, it’s true. There are some issues with flow and narrative and there are moments of clunkiness that leave the audience floundering for sense.

But does that matter?

This isn’t a conventional theatre play, nor is it a dance piece. This is performance art, using dance and music and monologues and real life impersonating art impersonating real life. This is raw and visceral and honest and even more beautiful for not being polished and ultra smooth. That I think, would take something away from this. It works perfectly as it is. Skilful dramaturgy would (metaphorically) sort out the spotty acne bumps and emotional stretch marks and bags under the eyes and wrinkles and the breaking voice. In other words it would take away the precious stuff of messy human reality. This isn’t an airbrushed music video, thank goodness.

Lucy is pure power and fierce loving mother, standing strong in her tiny frame as her soft, vulnerable roaring man child Raedie looms over her at times angry and awkward and other times reaches for her gentle and still, giving us hints of the man he is becoming. As the mother and son talk to us but never each other, we are thrown into an intimate reflection on the grief and wonder of watching our children, our babies, grow away from us. But of course, this grief is not really about this. It’s about time, about the precious, transcendence of human experience. That even as we try to grip, it falls out of our grasp, through our fingers, like a precious silvery thing, forever lost and irretrievable.

This performance brought the audience to a place of recognition, of held breath tipping onto the edge of sobbing grief — for that which is lost, but for that which was never ours.

Even if you have never had children, this show invites you to remember, and to reflect on time and humanity and impermanence and the modern age and I highly recommend it.