BWW Review: MAISIE, Bread And Roses Theatre
Things haven't been easy for Dan after his split with his ex-wife Mandy. His best days now all have their daughter Maisie in them, and she's all he talks about. She's six and they're spending the day in London before she's due to go to her friend's birthday party. The unimaginable happens, and the cracks that were there become abysses. Roger Goldsmith's Maisie is the heart-wrenching account of a broken man.
Gwenan Bain directs Steve Blacker in the 45-minute monologue; she calibrates his silences and gives breath to the deeply emotional subject with ease and deliberate weight, allowing the character to be a father first and foremost. Goldsmith's prose manages to anchor his lyrical qualities to genuine day-to-day speech, and Dan becomes an everyman. The playwright introduces his protagonist with acute sensitivity; Dan carries the backhanded cruelty of a tough divorce on his back, but leaves the bitterness and disappointment of his shattered relationship to the side for his daughter's benefit - unlike Maisie's mother.
The regrets and colossal pain he feels are delivered through a permanent glint of sadness in Blacker's eyes. Short smiles and heavy silences scatter a profound performance, opening up a broad reflection on male mental health through the slant of the script. While Dan never demands to be pitied, he doesn't ask for help either and actively declines support when it's offered to him, inadvertently perpetrating the stigma.
This image of a dad who's grieving is, however, a breath of fresh air. He doesn't shy away from having him explicate his feeling, breaking down his thought process and avoiding any toxic behaviours that are too often linked to male coping mechanisms. Dan is, essentially, a good guy. Bain assures that his numbness translates to the show's visual elements too: Blacker paces the half-moon stage slowly, fidgeting with the buttons of his jumper and using his toolbox to steady himself while he opens up to the crowd.
The show is, as a whole, a precisely paced exploration of grief and blame assigned to the less-listened to parent. The brief running time works incredibly well for the material's narrative development too, and Goldsmith succeeds in transferring an appropriate amount of sorrow onto his audience to make the matter feel universal. #