There’s an old adage about sins of the father being visited upon the children. Can a dysfunctional relationship cause ripples in subsequent generations? This broad theme is explored in Bromley Bedlam Bethlehem currently playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington. It tells the story of Eamonn (Dan Mullane) and his chequered relationship with daughter Sarah (Madeleine Bowyer). Eamonn had a rocky marraige exacerbated by heavy drinking; but enjoyed a close sometimes tense relationship with his daughter. Sarah’s marraige to Gerrard produced a son, Ben (Daniel Rainford) who becomes the family’s star turn, winning a place at Cambridge to study law. However, Eamonn’s death re-opens old wounds as mother and son reconstruct the past and brood on the future.
The story builds at a nice pace with clear flashbacks to fill in character history. A strong narrative presents the audience with a familiar conundrum; are relationships with our children affected by those we had with our parents. Do we learn from experience or continually repeat the same behaviour? In life the answer can rarely be black or white; it’s annoyingly somewhere in the middle. We are largely the product of our upbringing; and will seep into our future relationships, however hard we try to do otherwise. It’s risky to generalise, but this is the play’s greatest strength insofar it portrays a basic truth. Curiously, the exchanges in flashback were between Eamonn and Sarah; but not Eamonn and Ben. It might have been helpful to witness the practical impact Eamonn had on his grandson; however, this may be deliberate on the author’s part; more to emphasise the vicarious effect Eamonn had on Ben’s emotional frailty. This inadvertently adds greater dimension to Eamonn and Sarah, who are fully developed characters. Ben meanwhile lacks depth purely because he has fewer lines and consequently know less about him.
Even so, it’s a very well written play utilising an excellent cast. A special mention must go to Daniel Mullane, who stepped in at a week’s notice to play Eamonn and mastered the role with apparent ease. In all truth, it wasn’t exactly a light hearted cantor through family life, but that was never the intention. It makes us face uncomfortable truths about the human condition; and for better or worse we are still our father’s son or mother’s daughter.
Author: Rachel Tookey
Director: Thomas Martin
Box Office: 0333 012 4963
Booking Link: https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/bromley-bedlam-bethlehem.html
Booking Until: 25 May 2019