Ma, Pa and the Little Mouths (3 stars)

Ma, Pa and the Little Mouths

John Johnston

Surrealism and wit abound in Martin McCormick's esoteric domestic comedy

If there is one message to be gleaned from Ma, Pa and the Little Mouths, it is that nothing is what it seems. Ma (Karen Dunbar) and Pa (Gerry Mulgrew) live in a dusty, dirty room with whitewashed household objects glued to the wall – a wonderfully atmospheric creation from designer Charlotte Lane – and interaction with the outside world is kept to a minimum until a guest, who goes by the suitably ludicrous name of Neil (Nalini Chetty), is invited into their home.

As absurdist and undeniably bizarre as Ma and Pa's world can be – think cryptic, dreamy, occasionally violent monologues about snakes and talking hens, and singsongs accompanied by Knickerbocker Glories – it is also a world that is recognisably and ingeniously mundane, a world that relies upon savage humour and nuanced interaction to keep it alive.

The play's strengths lie in the eerie juxtaposition of normal and abnormal, a combination that is most cleverly cultivated with Neil's enforced stay. Cutting one-liners are abundant, and Dunbar's sly treatment of appealingly banal observations is masterful, creating a complex character out of the smallest, most inscrutable gestures. Yet as the play progresses and the slightly uncanny diverges into the full-on fantastical, there is a sense of discrepancy between this dual focus on the mundane and the surreal: two highly original dramatic strands, that remain not quite reconciled into one cohesive whole.

Tron Theatre, Glasgow until Sat 12 may; Traverse, Edinburgh Wed 16–Sat 19 May.

Ma, Pa and the Little Mouths

A new work by award-winning actor and playwright Martin McCormick. The play is set in the beguiling world of Ma and Pa, who spend their time exchanging extraordinary and fantastic stories

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