City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Mother Ship Review

By Lindsay Corr - Posted on 26 March 2008

The Mother Ship
Show Details
Traverse Theatre
Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company
Douglas Maxwell (writer), Ben Payne (director), Chloe Lamford (designer), Simon Bond (lighting), Jon Nicholls (Sound)
Jonathan Bailey, Robert Ewens, Robyn Hunt, Joanne Moseley, Nicholas Oldale, Daniel Settatree
Running time: 

We all have our own ways of dealing with situations, be it denial or invention, which stems from the resilient inner child in all of us. Stories and myths are integral to humans as a way of communicating when it’s hard to just speak the truth and Douglas Maxwell’s latest sees him comfortably explore the usual territory of mapping the emotional landmine of male adolescence – but this time there’s a twist.

Eighteen year old Eliot is facing the prospect of university life, the female form and a pregnant step-mother. One morning he wakes to discover the disappearance of younger brother Gerry, who was brain damaged after nearly drowning, for which Eliot holds himself partly responsible. To protect Gerry from ridicule, Eliot creates a myth that Gerry was abducted by aliens and has special powers but now he’s missing it seems the childish inventions of extra-terrestrial beings are becoming a reality. Enlisting the help of wheelchair bound Judy, best mate Kevin and a Constable who believes in Klingons, Eliot embarks on an adventurous road trip to track down Gerry and accept the truth.

Set against Chloe Lamford’s minimalist cardboard cut out set which takes the form of a snow-globe shaped constellation blue print, Ben Payne’s direction is cartoon like and fast paced. The comic book presentation makes the bizarre storyline enjoyable and allows Maxwell to bring to light his customary farce with a heart.

Commissioned by Birmingham Rep as a play to tour schools it deals first and foremost with humour and fun. Usually the knee-jerk reaction when dealing with disability in theatre is for there to be a lesson, but refreshingly not so here. Maxwell has created a cosmic teen romantic adventure that happens to include disability issues, represented in the touchingly portrayed romance between Eliot and Judy.

His writing isn’t always as pithy as it can be; although the clever inclusion of character Kevin’s inventive alternative swearing is a real treat. Maxwell’s gift for creating the misfit mindset is strong in this production as well as his adept skill for fantasy which Payne delivers well.

If there is a theme or lesson to take from The Mother Ship then it is belief and the power of believing. Be it faith in religion, sci-fi or your favourite pop group, having something can help us all with our judgement and eventual acceptance, symbolically summarised with the happy conclusion of a baby’s birth and hope for the future as everyone accepts to live with their distinctive traits.

An enjoyable show, with great performances, but overall still belongs in the school playground.

Runs at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh until Sat 29 March

© Lindsay Corr, March 2008