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[Smaller review]


The Stage, 6 April 2006

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By Jeremy Austin

It is no wonder that most of the BBC’s commissioners were in the audience for the press night of Smaller. Author and regular television script writer Carmel Morgan has an almost perfect understand of the balance between comedy and drama.

In some of the most upsetting scenes in any show currently on in the West End, Dawn French’s dowdy school teacher Bernice has put her life on hold for 25 years while caring for her almost completely paralysed mother Maureen.

While her sister Cath, played by Alison Moyet, lives a life of apparent abandonment as a cabaret singer in clubs around the world, Bernice is wiping her bullying, bitter mum’s bum and pushing her piles back in.

But it is Morgan’s understanding of pathos and her ability to draw such wretched characters that emphasise this even more. The wit is caustic and flows throughout. A scene in which Bernice and her mum laugh until Maureen wets herself and becomes upset is stomach-twisting.

French is a consummate comedy performer and character actress, but we knew that. More of a surprise is Moyet’s ability. She barks the lines in the similar monotonous tone that infects her singing - I’ve never been a fan - but she finds sensitivity and depth in the well drawn character.

Kathy Burke’s understanding of comedy and drama gives the piece a pace with Jonathan Fensom’s revolving set emphasising the captivity under which the two main protagonists are living..


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