It’s their mum’s birthday. So the four daughters return to the nest to drink cheap prosecco in celebration with their husbands, new boyfriends, missing girlfriends – and Granny. The only flaw is their mum is dead. And the will needs sorting out, fairly, on mum’s instruction. So Storm presents her PowerPoint vision of their future and the fireworks start.
This is a sharply funny script and an exquisitely choreographed production from The Wardrobe Ensemble. The story’s divided into chapters, heralded by projected surtitles which are also used to illustrate significant moments in their shared story. The birth of each of the daughters, for example. Ruby Spencer Pugh‘s set is over-bearingly, forebodingly pink. And the record player is trundled around the stage, a critical part of Mother’s quest to model her socially-aware, active and activist children.
All grown up, the oldest daughter, Joy (Kerry Lovell) is supposedly successful but taut with frustrated dreams. Storm (Jesse Meadows) is almost Saffron from Ab Fab but not quite. Her plaintive re-enactment of her mother’s manipulation is touching. Sage (Helena Middleton) is a perfectly realised punk feminist artist. And Maia (Sara Lessore) is the free spirited youngest of the sisters, babied hopelessly by all of them until she reveals that she’s possibly the most grown up of them all.
The Last of the Pelican Daughters is imaginatively staged by Jesse Jones and Tom Brennan and beautifully lit by Jessica Hung Han Yu. The costumes are a superb shorthand for each character’s ambitions – or lack of them. The shoes alone deserve respectful attention. You just have to look at Joy’s husband’s shoes to spot there’s a problem.
This is a polished, carefully orchestrated, impressive production. Time is money in the Fringe and this show feels like it has been cut short. Perhaps with another ten minutes, the company would have had more scope to let the pathos of the characters’ respective situations shine through. But as it is, this is a whip crack quick skip through the seismic aftershocks caused by grief and the things we’ll do – and not do – for love.