Skirmishes is the first in-house production from the team at the Lantern since they took over the theatre two years ago. A one act, hour long melodrama by Liverpool writer Catherine Hayes, the play is the story of two sisters confronting the imminent death of their bedridden mother.
Jean (the Lantern’s own Margaret Connell) has put her life on hold to nurse the elderly woman; Rita (Carmel Howard) has barely made contact over the years of decline.
Hayes went on to write for soaps, and that mix of dark humour and tragedy is apparent in an interesting script that crams all of family life into a real-time 60 minutes. The sisters have a love-hate relationship with their mother (Joan Oakley) and each other – Jean can barely contain her desperation for their mother to die, while Rita tries at every turn to run away from the responsibility and return to her young family.
There was a sense of realism in Hayes’s writing, but Skirmishes almost bites off more than it can chew, bringing a whole host of women’s issues to the table that there really isn’t the time to adequately explore. And similarly, the reveals and the tension arguably needed more time to build – at moments of such extreme stress, what goes unsaid is just as telling (which is a good thing for bed-bound actress Oakley, who demonstrated this well with a few well-placed moments of lucidity).
But all in all this seemed a perfect project for the Lantern team – the homely bedroom set, with characters on stage upon the audience’s arrival, was fitting and intriguing, and such real-time – and realistic – storytelling is always a real strength of the venue.