That’s Lunch Productions 22 & 23 Oct. 1900 (1945) @ St John’s Café, West End; also touring
by Danielle Farrow
Cutting the Cord is a fairly gentle look at a family relationship, seen through mother and daughter while the soldier father is away, posted to Afghanistan. Michael Shand’s script, directed by him for That’s Lunch Productions, uses well-phrased humour and realistic interaction to explore the different ways the two women cope.
Occasionally phrases given to the daughter seem surprisingly clinical, and the direction is similarly paced throughout and overly-symmetrical. Some moves looked unmotivated, and the decision to have every speech static did not feel natural. Minor use of audience space worked to good effect, though, and Henderson’s Restaurant, with it’s low ceiling and piano as part of set, worked well as an intimate living room setting, dressed with a table, chairs and household curtains. The few props, including the important picture of the father, were relevant and handled with detail.
There were signs that Sara Rodger as the daughter Bella was not fully comfortable. When grounded and connected, Rodger was very watchable, but these qualities were not consistently present, though the initial demonstrative face-pulling – flagging up thoughts in a very broad manner before finally getting around to voicing them – thankfully eased off as she settled into performance. Rodger was then able to produce some very real responses and, overall, managed to convey a strong adolescent mix of childishness and maturity, handling later moments of tackling an important issue with connected simplicity.
Tonia Flynn, as mother Stacey, came across as more comfortable in performance, delivering wry humour and vulnerable emotion well and remaining believable throughout, no matter what we learn of her behaviour as the play progresses. Only at a point of heightened reaction did she perhaps underplay a little, the upset called for by the script not fully realised. Also, regarding both performers, it can be difficult to seem truly mother and daughter, and this was not fully achieved, though some contrasting moments of awkwardness and connection did come close.
The real treasure to be found in this play is there, though, in the relationship of the two women, in each character’s need for the other, concern about the other and fear about how to connect. This was very well expressed in both writing and performance. While there could be more variation of pace in direction and script, and more connected consistency in performance, overall Cutting the Cord is a solid, engaging and very human piece, presenting real concerns with a pleasingly light touch.