Tender Mercies @ The Bread & Roses Theatre

01.10.2022

Attending Collette Cullen’s piece Tender Mercies, after having previously reviewed her award-winning script When Rachel Met Fiona, I was interested to see her re-telling of a story which had already received some cultural interest. 

The play concerned the story of the woman who lay dead in her home for a year before being discovered by her twin brother, and it re-imagined what her life might have been like up until this point. I think Collette Cullen did a good job of bringing to life her personality and lifelong yearning for human connection. The script jumped across the timelines of her life, from childhood through to old age, and built the journey that such a woman might have had. One aspect of the script I really enjoyed was the multi-role play between her and her hairdressing clients, however, it felt a bit too obvious that all these relationships would’ve been negative. Might there have been an opportunity for some stronger human connection? Overall the concept had good potential and allowed for what should’ve been a smooth fringe show, with fast-changing scenes played by one compelling character.

The set supported the pace of the show by having all the props onstage throughout. But this meant little was left to the imagination, with bottles of wine sat out for the entire performance despite not really being relevant until the final quarter of the show. The dolls house sat in the corner implied we were going to see aspects of childhood, which again removed aspects of surprise. Therefore while the set was functional, it simplified the show a little too much.

The show was let down in its potential by Wendy Fisher’s performance. Despite having some success in the role, such as her ability to adopt several roles and ages, her performance lacked conviction and frequently had to be prompted on lines. Each aspect of the role could have been pushed further, and on the odd occasion that her characterisation was pulling you in, you would be disrupted again by her request for a line. It is disappointing to see a show let down by something so fundamental in theatre, and returning from the show I had to check that Wendy hadn’t stepped in last minute on someone else’s behalf. 

Hopefully, Collette can make some revisions to a script that has good potential, and re-cast for a stronger performance of Tender Mercies.

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