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Sons & Mothers

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This is a fascinating documentary about a series of theatre workshops that led to the amazing stage performance Sons & Mothers.

I was lucky enough to see the No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability play a couple of weeks ago and adored it, so my expectations for the documentary were high.

Because theatre director Alirio Zavarce has such an inspiring and commanding presence, he manages to get all the actors to open up and bring their very best to the piece. In the film, he is allowed more space than in the play, and it works brilliantly. He is the kind of man who could get an award-winning performance out of a rock.

All the actors are disabled in one way or another, but their disabilities aren’t the focus of the film. Instead, it is firmly set on how the actors relate to their mothers and how the stage production takes shape. One actor is a heavy metal fan; one was told he would never walk or talk, and another keeps wiping away his tears when he speaks about his dead mother.

We follow them for a year from the very beginning of rehearsals to the award-winning performance at Adelaide Fringe 2013. There are ups and downs, including a particularly stressful period for one of the actors.

Film director Christopher Houghton has chosen to shoot most of the film in close-up, which works well as the audience gets an intimate portrait of the individual actors as well as Zavarce and the way they all work together to bring the theatre to life. The lighting is soft and glowing.

Sons & Mothers is an interesting documentary which deserves a wide audience. The one thing I felt was missing from the film compared with the stage play was the emotional involvement. I was certainly engaged intellectually, and I think the film would be an excellent starting point for discussions about disability in schools, but I didn’t laugh or cry the way I did when I saw the play.

Sons & Mothers is showing at The Trak cinema until November 9.

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