Most people, on hearing that someone's mother had died, would express at least some sympathy, even if it were feigned. Not the two men on a road trip through France in this odd play by Noëlle Renaude. On meeting a sombre waitress, they bristle at her grumpiness; told that her mother died recently, they respond brusquely: "It's not the end of the world."
In a sense they know this because both characters have lost their own mothers - as, indeed, has almost everyone they encounter on their picaresque journey. While they put up an aggressive front of unemotional detachment, both men are still haunted by the loss, so much so that when one sees a deer while driving, he swerves dangerously, convinced that the animal had "my mother's eyes".
... Hints are dropped that the women were less than perfect: they were unfaithful, secretive, selfish. One committed suicide on the first floor of the hotel she had just redecorated, leaving her son to clean up the mess. The one mother we meet who is still alive stands by the roadside attempting to sell her daughter as a prostitute. But Renaude seems to be writing more to provoke a frisson of discomfort than because she has anything to communicate.
Thankfully, Cassie Werber's crisp production offers its own pleasures. A wonky image projected at the back of the stage shows us what passes in the car's rear-view mirror, while a voiceover describes these sometimes beautiful, sometimes surreal sights: "A poet's cottage. Fresh-blown roses. A crossing for small, depressive animals." The energetic performances from Stavros Demetraki and Kevin O'Loughlin, playing the men and the people they meet, make these characters much more likable than their words suggest.