Dixon and Daughters at the National Theatre review

Written for the company Clean Break who deal with women in the criminal justice system, it opens with widowed Mary (Brid Brennan) coming home after serving a short prison sentence for perjury. Her daughters are waiting for her and she’s not happy about it.

She berates Julie (Andrea Lowe) an alcoholic fleeing her abusive husband for ruining her bed by sleeping in it (“It’s a memory foam mattress”), ignores Bernie (Liz White) whose attempts to keep the peace fall on deaf ears and is venomous towards psychobabbling step daughter Briana (Alison Fitzjohn) whose evidence got her convicted.

She prefers the company of the raucous and unpredictable Leigh (Posy Sterling), a homeless fellow inmate she invites to stay.

Jostling together in her suburban home depicted like an open doll’s house with semi opaque walls through which we see activities that might be real or imagined, the women reveal facets of their recent pasts, all of them connected to the men in their lives, particularly the dead father.

The fine cast, including Yazmin Kayani as granddaughter Ella, negotiates the rocky path of cyclical abuse, denial and survival with speed and style under Róisin McBrinn’s lively direction.

The sense that the house is haunted by memories of shocking events is emphasised by creepy lighting and sound effects. It’s not perfect but it doesn’t need to be.

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