Dixon and Daughters is one family’s story of generational trauma as a result of male violence. Deborah Bruce’s new play – the first co-production between Clean Break, the women’s theatre company that works with women in the criminal justice system and to bring hidden stories to a wider audience, and the National Theatre – is powerful, poignant and peppered with sharp humour as it focuses on three generations of women, their pain compounded by recent interactions with the criminal justice system.
It begins with Mary (Bríd Brennan) returning home after three months in New Hall prison. She was jailed for her role in failing to protect stepdaughter Briana from abuse suffered decades ago at the hands of Mary’s now-dead husband.
Mary arrives home to two daughters and a granddaughter eager to look to the future. But when uncomfortable truths have been swept under the carpet for so long, they are going to come out somehow. And the return of Briana (played with righteous fury and real spark by Alison Fitzjohn) leads to two days and nights of fraught discussion and hard truths in the Dixon house.
“I kept my voice down for 37 years,” Briana says, when Mary objects to her having her say.
The damage and the trauma is gradually revealed, the impact on each woman different.
Mary has lived for decades in denial. She hides her profound guilt and sorrow, turning her anger outwards. She’s spiky, confrontational, but Brennan shows us the fragility and pain lurking, barely concealed, beneath the surface.