The Last of the Pelican Daughters, Pleasance Courtyard, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Wardrobe Ensemble, Complicité and Royal & Derngate Northampton
Written and devised by the company, Tom Brennan and Jesse Jones (directors), Ruby Spencer Pugh (designer), Jessica Hung Han Yun (lighting designer), Benjamin Grant (sound designer), Bea Roberts (dramaturg), Georgia Tillery (assistant director), Hannah Smith (producer). Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Kayode Ewumi, Paul Hunter, Shaheen Khan, Temi Wilkey and Edythe Woolley (additional material).
Tom England (Derren), Emily Greenslade (Lara / Granny / Susie), Sara Lessore (Maya), Kerry Lovell (Joy), Jesse Meadows (Storm), Helena Middleton (Sage), James Newton (Like), Ben Vardy (Dodo).
Running time

“Hello House”.

The Pelican daughters have returned to the nest where they were born and raised, brooded over by their unconventional mother.

Now she is dead, and they are together on her birthday to celebrate her life and to sort out what is to become of the family home.

The women are introduced one by one: Joy, whose birth may not have been, leaving her mother’s vagina “wider than the Avon Gorge”, Storm, gushing in with the hurricane of ’87 as Michael Fish cried himself to sleep, Sage who was pushed out in ’90, along with Margaret Thatcher and Maya, arriving as easily as a sneeze.

They tell seemingly oft-repeated family stories, miss-remembering or embellishing parts, but all featuring their cool mum, who took part in pickets and protests and raided the supermarket to make sure they had birthday cake.

The house was a meeting place for weirdos and a huge music system, with Mum always at its centre.  The pink walls still seem to bleed with her presence.  Dodo, Maya’s dippy new age boyfriend can feel her; she is the house.

She is indeed present, as the cast members take up her iconic red dress to become her in flashbacks.  A younger Storm is berated to get up off her arse. She does so now to deliver a polite little PowerPoint presentation on the “fair” (not equal) division of the money from the will, and why she should be recompensed for looking after their ailing mother. 

They may be the same blood, but they have different lives and not much else in common. Issues and tensions are raised and memories challenged as perhaps rose-tinted in the face of fact. If their mother could see them now would she expect better and would she think them terrible people?

The modest house is expected to contain a lot, and the production often looks like it doesn’t know what it wants to be.  The characters don’t develop a great deal beyond “types” and a brother is thrown into the sisterhood latterly with little impact.

If it lacks in clarity and message there is no shortage of energy as the skilful cast weave their way through choreographed scenes in the imaginative staging, pulling off both humour and tension and an outstanding set piece.

It’s a slickly impressive look at love, loss and what we inherit.


​Show Times: 31 July to 25 (not 17) August 2019 at 4.40pm.

Tickets: £11.50 (£10) to £13.50 (£12).

Suitability: 12+.