Theatre Review - Dixon and Daughters

Camden-based Clean Break raise awareness of women who have lived experience of the criminal justice system or risk entering it. Since 1979, this cultural powerhouse has been the only women’s theatre company of its kind. Deborah Bruce’s Dixon and Daughters, Clean Break’s first co-production with the National Theatre, looks set to widen their reach.

Set in Yorkshire, a damaged all-female family have to come to terms with their past and find a way to navigate their future together. When Mary (Bríd Brennan) returns from a short spell in prison she is met by her 40-something daughters, Julie (Andrea Lowe) and Bernie (Liz White), and granddaughter Ella (Yazmin Kayani). The siblings’ late father ran a taxi firm and his daughters continue to work there.

Mary barely tolerates Julie, her childlike eldest daughter, who has been sleeping in the house in her absence. Julie has a drink problem and is trying to escape an abusive relationship. Julie still sees her stepsister Tina (Alison Fitzjohn), who has renamed herself Briana. Mary has banned her from visiting, after she testified against her in court, but Briana is on a mission to confront the truth and heal.

Kat Heath’s set is a cross section of the house – a living room and kitchen downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. The smaller bedroom has bad energy claims Mary’s friend Leigh (Posy Sterling) who she brings in off the street – she too has recently left prison but has nowhere to go.

Róisín McBrinn sets a frenetic pace as the characters circle round each other, while Bruce takes her time to reveal why Mary was inside and the betrayal of her daughters.

The comedy is occasionally overdone, but the play’s dark heart is devastating. Bruce writes astutely about family dynamics, abuse and trauma which, together with compelling performances, makes for riveting,often heart-breaking drama.


Orignally published by Camden New Journal