Old Red Lion Theatre – until 8 February 2020
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Showing as part of ORL’s ‘Where Are We Now?’ Festival of Emergent Artists, Mother Must Die?! by Fantastic Garlands is a weird and wonderful treat. Twins Jocasta and Jupiter come to their family home, Pen Hera Heights every Halloween to dutifully celebrate their mother’s birthday.
A letter with detailed instructions of the night’s arrangements is waiting, along with a chest containing childhood toys and bizarre outfits for the sisters to wear. Everything is distinctly off kilter as Jocasta begins preparations alone, but gets even more bizarre when Jupiter turns up in Brownie uniform. (She’s not a member, she just likes to watch and craft.) The animosity and sibling rivalry between the two is written well, with witty barbs being thrown back and forth as well as tantalising titbits about their childhood and family. Jocasta has one eye, and Jupiter has the use of only one arm, and the causes of the injuries are eventually revealed, as well as the fate of the family as mother’s footsteps/walking stick bang ominously from a distant room.
There are hints about witchcraft – Jupiter is living in Pendle Hill, and the shifting nature of the rooms in the mansion on the edge of the cliff, but the women’s approach to killing their mother is very down to earth and non-mystical. The various attempts and celebrations become as repetitive and hopeless for the twins as the joyless birthday celebrations they endure each year, and become more and more ridiculous and amusing for the audience.
Olivia Thompson as Jocasta and Libby Radliffe as Jupiter are lots of fun as the squabbling siblings, with great physical comedy and amazing chemistry. The bonkers plot is more Carry On Poe than true horror, but there are moments of unease as the cast make you believe that you are trapped in the dark crumbling mansion with them.
Lots of macabre fun with enough wacky twists and turns to keep you laughing throughout.