(Patricia) Ann Jellicoe Alan Brien - Essay

Alan Brien

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Miss Ann Jellicoe in The Sport of My Mad Mother has written what might be called 'a modern surrealist fantasy': an exercise in theatrical collage. Just as the painters tacked scraps of newspaper and torn menus on to their canvas, she has worked into her text the chanted directions from a home permanent-wave kit and a pastiche of a rock-'n'-roll song. The intention in each case is presumably the same—to prove that the most intractable gobbets of the real world can be transmuted by art into art. And she has similarly taken the surface appearance of some contemporary characters—an American social worker, an Australian hell-cat, two South London Teds and their doxy—and pressed them into service as symbols….

Unlike some critics I see absolutely no objection in principle to mixing in every kind of stage convention. The characters talk sometimes to each other, sometimes to the audience, sometimes to a drummer on the side of the stage, and sometimes to the stage-hands and electricians. They sing, dance, chant in unison, moan in couplets. They mime, mug and declaim. It is all rather like the last drunken night of University revue—full of old jokes, crude props, high spirits and low comedy. And often the effect is very funny—sometimes even rather eerie and arresting. But as a play with any precise relevance to any human problem, dilemma or situation, The Sport of My Mad Mother is a flop.

The production is not at fault. Miss Jellicoe has devised some ingenious and spectacular...

(The entire section is 633 words.)