Hands up who grew up with Stockard Channing on your screens as Rizzo in Grease? I think anyone alive today remembers this stunning and fabulous woman, gracing our screens wherever we turn. And i’m sure she is sick of us pointing her out for this and only this.
This is where, Stockard Channing, shows that she is not just Rizzo.
Night, Mother, by Marsha Norman is set in a little farm house in the USA. A unusual evening, a mother and daughter spend time together, chewing the fat, but when Jesse, the daughter (Rebecca Night) drops a big bombshell, this chewing the fat turns into a conversation of love, loss, mental health, pain and ultimately a Mother’s love for her daughter.
Firstly, this naturalistic play is utterly captivating. It is simple and yet extremely effective. I felt intrusive, breaking the fourth wall, yet I could have sat and listened to this duo talk to one another for hours. Channing and Night has instant chemistry, that it is actually really hard to believe they are not this Mother and Daughter pair. They somehow show true family love and a bond which lights up the stage and makes your heart ache and miss your own mother.
Night is everything that her character needs to be – traumatic, struggling, proactive and organised. She looks after her mother and organises her life, and as the story unfolds she naturally does things that anyone would in this situation; as she is talking about the most traumatic things, she folds laundry, she puts things away – she is very matter of fact, and that makes the story and her character all the more unnerving.
Channing is the doting mother – she will do anything for her daughter. But she is funny. She’s the mother we all have, who will bend over backwards but can be sarcastic and ridiculous and your heart just warms, but also breaks for her.
The story is inevitable. The premise is set out in front of us and so when the end comes, while we know it is coming, there’s always hope it doesn’t. We hope there is a change. Doesn’t stop it being a surprise when it doesn’t. And we break, along with Channing at this point.
My only criticism is that I would have loved both actors to annunciate more. Such quiet voices for such a big stage. But yet, in a way, completely naturalistic.
Night, Mother is a hard watch. It touches upon difficult topics but at the same time, you are entirely invested in it. It is absolutely heart breaking and Channing and Night’s relationship doesn’t help this emotional reckoning, with how perfect and naturalistic it is.