Cracking MAC

Jessica Harris is at the Midlands Arts Centre’s production of one-man show Cracking.

Billed as a completely made-up true story, this one-man show delves into the different ways in which things are perceived. It also looks at the way in which humour is used, and the way in which it can be misconstrued and turned into something to fear.

Between Shôn and his mother, humour is a bond, a language which they both use, and both understand – at least, most of the time.

Shôn, visiting his mother on the Isle of Anglesey and concerned for her health, gives her a big hug. She says he is squeezing her to death. Later, when he repeats a childhood act of cracking an egg on her head, he says she is laughing so hard it looks like she is crying. It’s just fun, he says. But the seeds of doubt are sown. Do they share the same perspective? Or do their views differ? The doubts grow as he comes across cards from her saying that he’s been an entirely disappointing son.

Word spreads, and before he knows it, Shôn has become the scourge of the town, his every word scrutinised, his every action read for the worse. The joke between Shôn and his mother, of breaking an egg over each other’s heads, becomes exaggerated. Soon, there are leaflets all over town with his face on them. It‘s easy to see how mob action takes over. He is pilloried and scapegoated. It is acceptable for him to be kicked and sworn at by an eight year old. He should be drummed out of town. He should be killed.

The craft of the piece rests on its ability to paint a big picture from a small scenario. What accounts for the extreme reactions to Shôn? How are these exploited, and to what ends? What does this particular example tell us about our wider politics?

Then there is Eileen’s speech. Friend of Shôn’s mother, she critiques the broken town she now lives in, without buses, facilities or community. Through her words, we get an insight into reasons why people have responded in the way they did to rumours of what Shôn has done.

There are moments of pure poetry in the piece. Watched by Shôn’s mother and Eileen, birds flying over the Menai Straits read as a metaphor to the way in which the mob takes hold and moves as one. But in the second occurrence of this, they seem to be more a metaphor of the deaths of the two women. We are left to wonder: to what extent is the piece about Shôn contemplating, and coming to terms, with the impending death of his mother?

Cracking is thoughtful, absorbing, and delivered with dry, very dry, humour.

Written and performed by Shôn Dale-Jones, Cracking is produced by SDJ Productions and Co-Produced By Theatre Royal, Plymouth. It’s on tour over the spring and for further information visit here.

For more details of forthcoming events at MAC see