Buvette Masthead

Review: Mother & Son

Sophia Dickinson

Writer Geoffrey Atherden has turned his classic Australian television series, Mother & Son, into a stage comedy. It’s the everyday lives of Maggie Beare, an elderly widower, and her 40-something-year-old son Arthur, who lives with her as her full-time carer. These timeless characters, played by Ruth Cracknell and Garry McDonald in the television series, are reincarnated by Noeline Brown and Darren Gilshenan in the stage version.

The show aired on television from 1984 to 1994. I remember watching the occasional episode as a kid, but I don’t think you need to be a fan of the show to enjoy the stage version. Atherden has been true to his original characters, but put them in situations that are relatable for contemporary audiences. The stage version portrays the frustration across generations of using modern technology in an amusing yet thought-provoking manner. Throughout the show, Maggie uses Skype to speak to her grandchildren who, even though they live in the same city, she never seems to see in person.


Noeline Brown as Maggie.


It’s quite a thrill to see such a high-profile cast of Australian talent on the Canberra Theatre Centre stage. They all have impressive résumés of stage, film and television experience. Noeline Brown has competed on Dancing with the Stars (one of my favourite shows) and I recognised Darren Gilshenan from Full Frontal. Rob Carlton, who plays Arthur’s brother Robert, won a Logie in 2008 for his portrayal of Kerry Packer in Paper Giants and Arthur’s girlfriend Anita is played by Rachael Beck from Hey Dad.

And they certainly deliver great performances in Mother & Son. Noeline Brown was a fitting choice for the role of Maggie. An entertainment veteran and long-time champion of issues affecting our ageing population, Noeline portrays Maggie with sincerity and wit. Her energetic performance brought humour to Maggie’s forgetful and often confused state, without making her seem like a complete fool, as is sometimes seen in American comedies

Darren Gilshenan as Arthur is suitably frustrating as he painfully accommodates his mother and brother’s expectations for him to take care of everything. I found myself urging him out the door as Maggie tries to stop him from doing what he wants. His girlfriend Anita is fittingly sweet for kind-hearted Arthur, and brings a bit of hope and excitement to his rather restricted life.

Rob Carlton and Nicki Wendt

Rob Carlton and Nicki Wendt

Rob Carlton, as Robert Beare, is convincingly arrogant and sleazy, giving the audience plenty to scoff at. He, unlike his mother, certainly does some inexcusably foolish things. His wife Liz, played by Nicki Wendt, definitely had a comically subtle air of Toorak about her – as if she was the kind of woman that inspired the characters Prude and Trude on Kath and Kim.

The show’s set and lighting was sleek and effective, without being distracting. Sometimes in live theatre I feel like the set becomes a lead character, so it was refreshing to see it humbly do its job while letting the actors hog the limelight.

The cast of Mother & Son on set. Image credit: Greer Versteeg.

The cast of Mother & Son on set. Image credit: Greer Versteeg.

The show had plenty of laugh out loud moments, making for a relaxing and memorable night out. Although it was a more mature audience, the show is full of slick jokes that were expertly delivered by the cast. The humour contains a hint of Aussie sarcasm that all ages, fans and first-timers, will enjoy.

The show is in Canberra until 11 February, Tickets from Canberra Ticketing. Get all the details at our Event Page.


Sophia Dickinson

Sophia is a true Canberra girl having been born and raised here, and she now works in the public service. She loves Canberra for all it has given her from a great education, fulfilling work to opportunities to indulge her love of dance and music. She is passionate about travel and writing, and studied post-graduate media and communication. She has appeared in several local amateur theatre productions, although she prefers to be an audience member these days. More about the Author

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