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A mother's courage turns to strife in the suburbs

PUBLISHED: 12:32 08 May 2008 | UPDATED: 17:19 16 August 2010

SIMON Stephen s new play at the National Theatre offers a surrealist quality to his usual gritty realist plays, writes Marina Soteriou.

SIMON Stephen's new play at the National Theatre offers a surrealist quality to his usual gritty realist plays, writes Marina Soteriou.

It tells the story of Harper Regan, a mother in her 40s, living in Uxbridge, who is trying to face up to the prospect of her father dying.

Domestic scenes with her and her bright and naturally argumentative teenage daughter hint at a menacing family secret.

The audience realises that Harper's desire to go and see her father in Stockport could tear her fragile family apart.

In a self-destructive move she decides to go and see him without telling a soul.

Here, she has a couple of encounters with strangers in which the reason she and her family had to leave Stockport for Uxbridge, slowly unravels.

It is in these encounters with strangers, in which she is not playing the role of mother, wife or daughter, that Harper's personality shines through.

Throughout the play she is played with a manic quality by the brilliant Lesley Sharp.

At some points you expect her to break down completely but at the end of her odyssey, as the last scene is testament to, she reassumes her matriarchal role.

Playwright Simon Stephen's talent for writing moving for gritty plays have been well proven. Haper Regan's suburban setting and characterisation of the heroine shows he has the same panache for writing more traditional roles.

But Harper is anything but conventional this is a character the audience want to see more of.

Until August 9 at the Cottesloe Theatre at the National Theatre.

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