Review by Matthew Hocter
The relationship between Mother and son is a nuanced affair, but one that is full of more love than words could ever explain. The want to constantly protect your Mother starts from an early age and never really ceases. So when someone like Patrick Livesey, star of 2021’s DIRT, returns with a deep dive into the multi faceted relationship they had with their Mother Naomi, and her subsequent suicide, going to see this play is a necessity.
This Fringe season has been fraught with so many cancellations and reshuffles that there has been a real issue with quality productions taking their rightful place at one of the largest festivals in the world. Couple this with a thirst for anything arts related and you are left with an undiscerning public that will gobble up anything that is delivered, no matter how mediocre it may be in reality. Naomi is none of the above and unlike anything you will see this Fringe, and thank god for that.
With director Bronwen Coleman at the helm of this play, and a very simple, yet poignant set design by Xandra Roberts, Livesey is able to have the spotlight firmly placed on them and the eight characters they embody throughout the play. There are eight lights evenly spread across the downstage, with each one representing one of the characters, a simple, yet effective idea by lighting designer Matt Ralph. Livesey brings each character to life with nothing more than the tone in their voice and mannerisms of those that loved their Mother.
With each character having been interviewed by Livesey, the family and friends that make up the eight characters are not just a figment of someone's imagination, but living people that clearly loved Naomi. Each character is brought to life not just through Livesey’s beautifully vulnerable and honest reinterpretations, but it is their layered feelings of Naomi that connect you to someone that is no longer here. The confusion, anger, pain and guilt that bounce between each character is raw and very, very real.
Whilst the story itself is at times graphic, Livesey manages to squeeze some lighter moments in, showing just how brilliant and versatile they are at their craft. Switching in an instant between things like mental health, domestic abuse and substance abuse, one would think that any kind of humour would be lost in a play like this. It’s not. If anything it reminds us of the characters we not only surround ourselves with, but also those that live within us, whether we acknowledge them or not.
Livesey is clearly a storyteller and a brave one at that. As they deliver their final speech, the audience is reminded that we must talk more openly about these issues - issues that have only been magnified and increased dramatically over the last two years.
There is an ancient Egyptian proverb that says “to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.” Livesey, a child of their late mother, has most definitely guaranteed that their Mother’s name, Naomi, will never be forgotten.