Winsome Brown’s one-woman show is an affecting portrait of her mother and the life Brown and her siblings shared with her. Mary Brown is brought to life through various recollections, focusing on her struggles with alcoholism and the incredible closeness of the family throughout. As the forthright title suggests, joys and sorrows are presented simply and honestly, and Brown’s writing is always suffused with the very real warmth of her family.
This Is Mary Brown is a very special piece of writing and a virtuosic piece of acting.
The set is bare – table, chairs, telephone, a glass of wine and a pack of cigarettes. In these surroundings, Brown is chameleonic, and she shines. She plays fifteen characters – herself, her mother, her father, siblings and various figures from their family life – with remarkable skill. Nothing in the show is caricatured; both the writing and the performance are sharp and nuanced, and the play has an emotional heart which feels very human. This is the show’s strength: it is not an extraordinary story but a real one. The drama comes from the complications of family life, the touches of comedy from its bizarre little moments: the surprising perceptiveness of children, or an eccentric priest. It is all very honest, never tempted to sugarcoat the highs and lows, and is all the more intimate because of it.
In the husky-voiced Mary, we see a sadness but also an incredible fullness. She sits with a glass of wine, smoking and joking with the audience, the Irish twinkle in her eye never fully extinguished. Particularly poignant are the delicate and difficult conversations between Winsome and her mother, as are the Irish songs she sings affectingly with her guitar.
This Is Mary Brown is a very special piece of writing and a virtuosic piece of acting. A hidden gem, it is a pleasure to see a show at the Fringe with such a genuine heart.