Beth Kayes is a compelling performer and her one-woman show, Once There Was A Woman, is a tribute narrative from a daughter to a mother. Originally developed for a four-strong cast, the Masters of Performance student from the University of Auckland was given the opportunity to make the work into a solo piece.
With assistance from Dr Murray Edmond, Kayes presents a short, powerful biography of a dynamic non-conformist, an educator, a mother, a literature lover: a woman who refused to be defined by a terminal illness.
Kayes is every inch a versatile actor. The world she creates is clearly a result of strong training and discipline and is well punctuated with an array of recognisable theatrical devices.
This is the world of a daughter who is seeking professional help. During her discussion with her counsellor, she offers a number of insights into her parent: a vivacious woman whose interactions at home, and in her community, reflect a number of key changes that took place in New Zealand in the 1970s.
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Ranging from experiences teaching in South Auckland to fostering children at her home in Mt Albert, witnessing protests as well as navigating her own way while battling with a brain tumour, Kayes creates a thoughtful, often funny and moving commentary.
The work is a finely wrought but, occasionally, still carries the hallmarks of a carefully constructed theatrical performance that just shies away from genuinely exposing some of the most vulnerable and brittle aspects of the relationship between mother and daughter.
Multiple threads also hinder a more comprehensive unpacking of the tragedy of watching a once powerfully articulate human slowly morph before her children's eyes but the beginnings of this excavation are certainly present.
This is not just a touching coming-of-age story for the character of the daughter nor is it simply a final hurrah for the mother.
It has the real potential to make the audience genuinely care about our elderly and the palliative care they receive right here in Aotearoa. A tender and eloquent work that has been meticulously crafted, Once There Was A Woman, has much to offer its audiences.
What: Once There Was A Woman by Co Theatre Physical
Where and when: Q Theatre, Until Friday