Review Round Up: Dixon and Daughters, National Theatre

We take a look at what is being said about Deborah Bruce’s new play making its debut at the National Theatre.

© Helen Murray

The Guardian: **** “There are some clumsy switches between humour and melodrama in the script while the comedy itself is hammy. But beneath its apparent simplicity runs a complex dynamic between family members and cyclically repeated abuse or trauma that feels as genuine as it is tragic. By the end, the characters are no longer comical and stereotypical but flesh and blood women, doing all they can to survive.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “There is a lot going on and arguably too many stories of misery at the hands of men. The action sometimes loses momentum as another thread emerges. Nevertheless, the honesty of both writing and performances shines through, making the play an involving examination of exactly why women continue to suffer in silence, in homes where they should feel safe.”

The Telegraph: *** “It has its faults, but this drama about a family in long-term recovery from an abusive, incestuous patriarch is well acted, and compelling.”

Evening Standard: *** “Lowe, White, Fitzjohn and especially Brennan all get great, laugh-out-loud lines and grandstanding emotional moments. Sometimes, laughter catches in your throat. Kayani dexterously handles a bizarre and rambling late scene where the insidious power of the patriarchy is spelled out. There’s lots to admire and enjoy here, but the too-neat ending, along some of the comic and dramatic flashpoints along the way, feels unearned.”

The Reviews Hub: *** 1/2 “McBrinn uses a classic family dynamic with occasional horror accents to suggest that a buried secret will emerge with Paule Constable’s lighting design providing those shifts in emphasis. Dixon and Daughters has a number of trigger warnings attached which give clear guidance on the show’s content if needed, but the way Bruce navigates the audience towards the truth is interesting to experience through the writing, even if it needed a little longer to explore the consequences.”

Time Out: **** “Bruce’s writing deftly scratches out the outlines of these abrasive, damaged, strange women – Mary’s relatively normal granddaughter Ella (Yazmin Kayani) feels like a visitor from another planet, her softness unbruised by bad experiences. Each one has a real arc and journey, an impressive feat in a play that’s only 90 minutes long. And it’s refreshing that although this play is full of trauma, it resists going deep into the grim details.”

The Stage: **** “Challenging, insightful piece explores the connection between domestic abuse and the criminalisation of women.”

British Theatre Guide: “Róisin McBrinn’s direction mixes the real and symbolic effectively, greatly helped by Paule Constable’s lighting which matches the moment. Bleak though the story is, this production easily incorporates some savage humour, sometimes provided by Posy Sterling’s coarse-mouthed Leigh, a young woman with whom Mary had worked in the prison library, now brought back after finding her in the street homeless.”

Broadway World: **** “Dixon and Daughters has more of the tense and horrific about it than some other abuse-based tales which have recently come to the stage. Bruce’s script is frank, funny, and sad, but comes to a resolution a bit too quickly. Still, this play proves to be a strong piece which leaves us wondering what we really know about our friends and neighbours.”

London *** “Presented in collaboration with Clean Break, the women’s theatre company established in 1979 to grant stories of women in and out of prison their place at the cultural table, Dixon and Daughters courses with a visceral energy that sweeps you along, even when the bald-faced emotion raises the temperature to boiling point and beyond.”

Dixon and Daughters continues to play at the National Theatre until the 10th June 2023.

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