Photos – Lachlan Moore
Thirty years ago Geoffrey Atherden wrote the first episodes for a new Australian television comedy series. Mother & Son went on to become an enduring comedy classic and the wonderful actor Ruth Cracknell became synonymous with the central role of Maggie Beare – the forgetful, aging mother of two adult sons, who managed to steer her way through a series of hilarious adventures.
Thirty years on and Atherden has brought Maggie back into our lives, in a live stage version starring another showbiz veteran – Noeline Brown, assuming the role of the memorable character.
The setting has been updated to current times and technologies, with Maggie living with Arthur, who is now "seeing someone". Arthur is looking for a break and wants to have a holiday with his new love, but is constantly manipulated by his mother.
Robert, the favourite son, is a philandering husband, happy that Arthur is assuming all the responsibility of taking care of Maggie.
So who will be responsible for Maggie while Arthur's away?
Atherden's script is topical, hilarious and sometimes touching. Dealing with the issues of growing old, the loss of memory and independence could be a downer. But as in the television series, he looks at the funny side of everything and how families cope with the obstacles that are thrown their way.
In the capable hands of director Roger Hodgman the cast all perform well. No one could re-create the unique character that Ruth Cracknell gave us, but Noeline Brown gives her own understated interpretation, knowing how to deliver a comic line.
There is a nice rapport between her and Darren Gilshenan (Arthur), who gives a solid, strong performance. Shane Jacobson is suitably shifty as Robert.
Kellie Rode, Sharon Davis and Jade Redman and Dylan Redman complement the proceedings, with Robyn Arthur in a lovely cameo as an Aged Care resident.
Nicki Wendt is a standout as Robert's long-suffering, but outspoken wife, Liz. She has some great cutting lines and delivers them with a razor-sharp tongue and steely face.
This Mother & Son may not be remarkable theatre but it serves to remind so many of us what a great television milestone it was. It should be a crowd-pleaser, and it will be hard for most audiences not to fall for these lovable and familiar characters.
Joint Ventures (Aust), Lascorp Entertainment and Fractured Limb Productions
Mother & Son
by Geoffrey Atherden
Director Roger Hodgman
Venue: Comedy Theatre | 240 Exhibition St, Melbourne
Dates: July 18 – August 17, 2014
Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au | 1300 111 011