Spawned from a verbatim project on a housing estate in France, Joel Pommerat's play lifts the lid off parent-child relationships and gives voice to feelings that often go unspoken. It takes the form of 10 unrelated scenes that chart the relationship between parents and children from different perspectives.
There is the pregnant teenager who sees her unborn child as a way of defining herself; the mother belittling her grown-up daughter; the five-year-old child matter-of-factly telling the father who she doesn't live with that she doesn't want to see him. "It's no big deal," she says with childish confidence. It is the parents who are almost always the neediest people in these relationships, typified by the single mother who won't let her 10-year-old son go to school because she fears being usurped in his affections.
The play owes a great deal to Edward Bond, and the most powerful scene, in which a mother and her neighbour identify a corpse in a morgue, pays a direct homage to Jackets. There is an uncompromising and painful honesty. You want to simultaneously cheer and cry as a son tells his elderly father that he doesn't want childcare advice from him because he is trying not to replicate their father-son relationship.
By British standards, this is astonishingly grown-up and hard-hitting theatre for young people. Even the way it is being staged as part of the Theatre Cafe festival is a radical departure, with three companies, Company of Angels, Pilot Theatre and The Junction, all creating and showing productions around the country simultaneously. British theatre companies for children and young people should observe and take note.
Review by Lyn Gardner, The Guardian