Review: A Family Outing – 20 Years On

4*
The Pit, Barbican Centre
Please note this performance has now closed.

Watching A Family Outing – 20 Years On was as unpredictable as any actual family outing. Part of Barbican’s 2019 season, Life Rewired, this performance is an attempt at recreating the original piece from 20 years ago.

In the original, Ursula Martinez performed alongside her mother and father in an exploration of family dynamics, and the inevitable weaving of laughter and tension, joy and sadness, impulsivity and reflection. Twenty years later, Ursula’s father is no longer with us, and her mother has been diagnosed with early stages of dementia.

The juxtaposition of elements of the original performance with current updates allows for a fascinating, and sometimes confronting, reflection on the passage of time and its effects on each of our lives. Are we able to remain the same, or do we become completely different people? Do we survive or perish? At times, the answers are black and white, and other times they are blurred. We are both the same, but different. We both survive and perish. Time is both kind and cruel. The performance is both a recreation and an update. It is both a performance and real life.

The current performance doesn’t include a narrative per se, spending some time reminiscing about the creation and experience of the original show, as well as about familial anecdotes of the past twenty years and present day. We are invited to witness heart-warming moments between mother and daughter, as well as some tensions. The content and messages are exquisitely contained through the medium of comedy, and one of the punchlines is that her mother no longer remembers her lines – sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t. What is real and what is performance? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. There is a sense of being at home, of belonging, of enjoying a loved one’s company, of acknowledging serious matters, but always managing not to take anything too seriously.

To watch a performance that reflects on the family unit, its importance in an individual’s life, and even the question of what may constitute a family, allows for a powerfully warm and personable experience at the theatre, which I would highly recommend.

© Ryan Valadas 2019

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