Martyn Hesford originally wrote Mrs Lowry and Son as a radio play which was transmitted on BBC Radio 4 in May 2012. Tackroom Theatre's début production, under its artistic director Abbey Wright, brings to life the visual rendering of this heartbreaking yet often witty account of the painter L.S. Lowry's life as a middle-aged man, tormented by his infirm mother.

The intimate venue downstairs at the Trafalgar Studios enhances the claustrophobic nature of Elizabeth's bedroom in the two up, two down Pendlebury property. Richard Kent's set is beautifully lit by David Plater. The backing appears magically through a purple-hazed gauze during scene changes as if to invoke a sense of faux-glamour to the grim industrial scenes Lowry was famous for painting – though the use of colour was always the give away that his escape was in his art; his trademark matchstick figures full of life and optimism.

Laurie, as his mother called him, was a rent collector and painted as a hobby. He never married and it wasn't until his mid-forties that his work became recognised by the art establishment. There is evidence to suggest that he was mildly autistic, but it is also clear that his mother deliberately held him back from being confident. She is vehemently disapproving of his work, especially Sailing Boats, a piece he had painted for her birthday, until a neighbour acknowledges its merit, upon which she then heaps praise on her simplistic son. Her attitude is one of embitterment and regret. But despite comments such as "I could have been a concert pianist", "What is your purpose?" and "I never wanted a child", she would ultimately be lost without her son's loyalty and care. Often skipping into bed hurriedly when she hears Laurie coming home, she plays the part of a manipulative villain who can't bear him to have freedom of expression.

Michael Begley portrays the artist's childlike nature and puppyish devotion. His infrequent eye-contact with his mother suggests an awareness of her power over him, but there are also telling signs of his thought processes: the odd glance or smug grin in the direction of the audience show that his mocking mother hasn't quite got the upper hand. And the piece is punctuated by bitter-sweet monologues with a lyrical tendency. These happen when he is painting in the attic, once his mother has settled. In trying to justify his hobby, he tells his mother "My paintings are not just pictures of streets… every stoke of colour is made up of me" to which she retorts "How self-indulgent, get yourself to a doctor."

June Watson is outstanding as Elizabeth. She conveys the distress of having a hole in her life never filled and how her unwanted son, following her husband's death, is no substitute. Watson is compelling viewing as this pitiful figure. The timing, delivery and variance of character – from vicious belittler to cantankerous dependent – is perfectly portrayed, as is her anguish when she thinks Laurie might actually take up the offer of going to London to promote his work. You can see her whole world collapse in her eyes.

Dynamic acting, tight direction, excellent lighting, an ethereal score by Alex Baranowski and the important contribution of sound designer Max Pappenheim – all these elements come together to create a magical piece of theatre.

Mrs Lowry and Son, at Trafalgar Studios

This gritty and witty account of a period in L.S. Lowry's life depicts the painter's relationship with his mother. Dynamic acting and an eye for the emotional details of everyday disappointments, come together to create a sensitive piece of theatre. At the Trafalgar Studios.

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