Kirsty Stuart is Helen in a monologue focusing on the issues surrounding coping with new motherhood. Helen has to contend with living in Iraq, away from any family support, with a husband who is being the “hero” doctor elsewhere, whilst she must stay at home being the good mum, all the while staying in a gated community where she is alone and isolated. Helen constantly berates herself about being a bad mother and the play propels itself towards one expected negative outcome. Can Helen pull out of the nosedive she finds herself in?
Stuart is flawless in her portrayal of the different characters in her world, including the newborn Flo. There is no attempt to make her character likeable. This is both refreshing and challenging to the viewer. Despite some humour, the overall feeling is one of impending doom. Stuart’s stagecraft is exceptionally good on what is such a small stage. Combined with simple but effective lighting the story is brought to life: you are transported from the heat of the desert to the confines of the house in the flick of a switch. This reflects well on Ben Harrison’s direction.
Flo is Martin McCormick’s follow-up to last year’s award winning Squash. There are a few questionable moments here where Helen’s experiences don’t quite ring true. This reviewer finds the portrayal of post-natal depression a little clunky and too focused on the mechanics. Were Helen’s Match of the Day references simply an attempt to keep male theatre-goers interested? Are the Florence (Lawrence) of Arabia references likely to be understood by people under a certain age? By far the biggest problem is the later sections where the drama is ratcheted up with some potential, only for it to be diffused in a weak way. This is a shame, considering how well tension is achieved over such a short time. Of course, mothers and partners deal with their new situations differently. However, Helen’s situation seems to be ideal for presenting a far more dramatic ending.
Despite the above reservations it is certainly worth making your way along to this play to catch Stuart’s compelling performance.