BBC Radio 3, 7 December 2013
Brenda Kapowitz (Madeleine Potter),
a single mother of two boys, is suddenly confronted with an unmanageable problem. Her elder son Matthew (Ethan Brooke)
has been accused of raping three women in a university campus, in a case that attracts considerable local media attention.
Now Brenda has to cope with the ordeal of dealing with Matthew, coping with the media, and looking after her other son, eight-year-old
Jason (Lucas Glozman), who tried to lead as normal a life as possible by going to school each day.
One of the ways she tries to
maintain normality is by celebrating the Jewish festival of Hanukkah - which in its North American version can emphasize resistance,
as well as being a symbol of one's religious identity. However her best-laid plans fail to materialize, as one of her
photographs that she sent to the local media (as proof of her happy family life) is used to emphasize Matthew's apparent lack
of remorse ("the rapist lives on as if nothing had happened.") Her will to continue gradually declines, and by the end
of the play she is reduced to a shell, with nothing in her but hate left (as she admits).
While Mother of Him does not deny
Matthew's guilt, it nonetheless focuses on the ways in which families try to cope with extreme situations - the
kind of situations that are often blown out of all proportion by the media. Brenda shows admirable strength of
character, but even her resistance crumbles (which in a sense undercuts the idea of Hanukkah). All she can do is
to hold her head up high in a gesture of defiance as she takes Matthew to jail.
Madeleine Potter's performance was a memorable one - at first she worked hard to keep her emotions under
control, but as the action unfolded, she kept giving way. At one point she smacked Jason: the sound rang out
like a pistol-shot, followed by a few moments of dead silence. Then Jason began to howl. We felt
sorry for her, but understood precisely why she had been driven to do this.