Smaller

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Previewed 28 March 2006, opened 4 April 2006, closed 3 June 2006 at the Lyric Theatre in London

Carmel Morgan's new comedy play Smaller in London stars Dawn French and Alison Moyet along with June Watson and is directed by Kathy Burke.

Bernice Clulow is the life and soul of the staff-room with a legendary reputation for her selfless devotion to her disabled mother, Maureen. But when she goes home to her mum her smile becomes fixed - her mum wants to talk and demands news from the outside world - Bernice just wants to kick her shoes off... and her mum's head in. Bernice's sister, Cath, left home as soon as she could to pursue a dream career in musical theatre, and missed out on all those precious mother-daughter moments. Now she belts out karaoke classics to hen parties in Puerto Banus... and she wonders, as she returns home, just what has happened to her once promising musical theatre career. House-bound, honour-bound and homeward-bound - Maureen, Bernice and Cath pick their way through a minefield of guilt, resentment... and fear.

For television Carmel Morgan has written over 70 episodes for Cornation Street and Brookside. Her new tv series Supermodel, starring Cheryl Taylor, for BBC3 is due start filming in early 2006. PLEASE NOTE: This production contains very strong language. Age limit is 16 and over. Dawn French's previous West End credits include Geraldine Aron's one-woman comedy My Brilliant Divorce at the Apollo Theatre (2003). Kathy Burke West End theatre directing credits include Karen McLachlan's comedy Betty starring Geraldine McNulty at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2002.

"Smaller is a touching, funny play about the way in which a handicapped, widowed woman's life has shrunk and inevitably confined the life of the daughter who cares for her. Dawn French is worth her weight in gold as the amusing, self-sacrificing Bernice, who comes home from teaching English and listens to her devoted Catholic mother, Maureen, wittering on and on about the neighbours' comings and goings. A new car spotted through the nets constitutes a major incident. In return, Maureen wants her daughter to regale her with the minutiae of her dreary day in the staff room... The excellent, wheedling June Watson, as Maureen, wears us out, just as she does Bernice, who is hugely resentful that her sister, Cath (Alison Moyet), is pursuing a pathetic career singing Robbie Williams songs in a chicken suit to tourists in what Bernice calls the 'Costa del Chlamydia'... Bernice - feeling unappreciated and fearing life is passing her by - occasionally erupts like a human volcano with no expletive deleted (you've been warned). On the other hand, caring for Mum does give Bernice the perfect excuse for not getting out there. Moyet's singing interludes are enjoyable but not sufficiently integrated into the drama. Carmel Morgan writes with wit and verve. She is very good on Catholic guilt and the way mothers can treat their daughters differently and not necessarily fairly. She is also shrewd on the tyranny of caring; a two-sided but desperately unequal affair. But, ultimately, the play is more schematic than dramatic." The Mail on Sunday

"In theory, Smaller brings together a West End wishlist: Dawn French as the carer daughter of a disabled mother, Alison Moyet as the daughter left to 'shag and yodel her way across four continents', and Kathy Burke directing... Though Dawn French is a comedy goddess... it is not until the second act that it looks as if things might pick up and Smaller might get better - but it's only for a moment, and too late. Throughout, Moyet belts out songs she has written specially. I wish she didn't." The Sunday Telegraph

"I've nothing against Carmel Morgan's play Smaller except it being in a West End theatre. Any theatre. It's a half-hour sitcom thinly stretched out as a two-hour play, full of flat, cutesy writing and plodding jokes... The ending is of the laugh-through-tears, bone-crunchingly sentimental variety." The Sunday Times

The director Kathy Burke on Smaller: "Dawn French asked if I could recommend a good female writer to her. She asked me if I knew of any good writers working in television, because I think she originally wanted a TV project written. I didn't know Carmel but I knew her work, because I'm a big Coronation Street fan and I'd noticed over the years that, whenever I really loved an episode of Corrie, it tended to be written by Carmel Morgan, so I recommended her to Dawn. She and Dawn met and chatted. Carmel said she'd got a story which could be adjusted to work for two sisters. Once they'd decided to do it as a theatre piece, that's when they asked if I would be willing to direct it."

The playwright Carman Morgan on her play Smaller: "For a while I'd wanted to write a play about a disabled mother and a carer-daughter and that closed environment. I got a message asking me to go and have a chat with Dawn French. Dawn said she'd like to do a play with Alison did I have any ideas? I thought about it for a few weeks and talked it through with Dawn. We agreed that the set-up of two siblings and a disabled mum - one sister supposedly doing her bit and the other supposedly not - was more fertile and complex territory than the straight mother/daughter idea."

Smaller in London at the Lyric Theatre previewed from 28 March 2006, opened on 4 April 2006 and closed on 3 June 2006.