Families are never simple, but in the four-daughtered Pelican family, summoned to divide up their late mother’s will, there’s more than most round the table, on the table and swept under it. When everyone gets together, the eldest daughter Joy observes “It’s loud”.
The pelican of folklore feeds its young its own blood, and it is clear their mother was a formidable figure who had a strong influence on all the sisters in different ways. Their degrees of appreciation and resentment for that fact waver. Through the bright emblem of a floaty red dress, each sister plays her own mother in turn and hands out, in flashback the kind of advice you might remember on such an occasion (Sage repeats John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ as a holy mantra), as well as less kind memories (Joy being left to babysit Maya whilst still only a child herself). Where once they received her ‘blood’ they are intrinsically connected by it, and must now broken-heartedly bond or tear chunks out of each other in a survival of the fittest all-out-brawl.
Their mother’s presence, as well as being felt on the stage, can be seen in the spindly shadows of trees projected on the walls. I believe credit is due to Complicite’s usual high standard of imaginative projection work. Reverse projection is also used to reveal other parts of the house. It is a pity more is not made of this technique as the unfolding doll’s house effect it creates is in keeping with the novel
The pink house filled with large personalities and names like “Joy” and “Storm” gives the design as well as the script a larger-than-life ‘Wes Anderson’-Infused flavour. The omission of a father/fathers is also an interesting choice. These women can save or take-down each other all by themselves, while their small team of respective partners can only watch awkwardly from the side-lines; it all feels very Angela Carter.
Whilst all the girls are funny in their own way (Blue/green haired Sage is my personal favourite – they’ve got the few-years-later art graduate look spot on!) The youngest daughter Maya’s boyfriend ‘Dodo’ draws the biggest laughs. For all his irritating Bali-travelling, spiritual-healing, platitude wielding, magic-mushroom consuming habits he actually has a better idea than most what is going on and how best to cool a fraught situation – until it all gets too much and further disaster ensues, and who can blame him?
Granny is also in the picture, being wheeled in and out by her carer who is simultaneously her only friend and her jailer. Though she has been pushed out to the edge of the family unit, care and who is responsible for it is one of the core issues explored in this play.
Inheritance, legacy and family loyalty are also all jostling for position. Rest assured there will be tears, as well as smiles before bed-time but “Pull your tits up”, as Mother Pelican would say – it’s an emotional ride worth seeing through to the end.
It’s a laugh a minute, cry a minute open-wound of a play with lots to say, and where better than a big pink house to say it?