Wednesday, 11 September 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: My Mother Said I Never Should - Theatre By The Lake, Keswick.

This is a play that has already gone into theatre history for being one of the most performed plays written by a female playwright ever, and this evening’s production at Theatre By The Lake in Keswick matched its reputation. It was a totally lovely evening of time-travelling female-oriented theatre, with a spiky edge around the poignancy.

Played in the Studio in traverse, Elizabeth Wright’s set had a drab brown piano and floor tiles at one end, and a collection of dishevelled blue-and-white sets of drawers down the other. Four actors, all being little girls, tumbled onto the stage: one in an Edwardian pinafore, one in an interwar dress and cardigan, another in a sharper-coloured dress from the 1950s, and the last in a stripy top and denim overalls circa 1980. They all knew each other, and played and bickered with each other, as any group of children would. Quickly the conversation turned onto “Mother”; and then Charlotte Keatley’s twisty, turny script that kept jumping back and forth in time from the 1920s to the 1980s, and almost every decade in between, came into its own. These four children were a great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and daughter, all from one family.

Maggie O’Brien was the steely core as Doris, the oldest character, and utterly believable as the former school teacher that Doris had been. The ever-so-slightly softening that occurred in her over the decades was measured out in teaspoons, and the final moment when she was a blushing young bride in pink looking forward to a life of fulfilment and reward was delicately moving.

Asha Kingsley was a rather quiet and serious Margaret, keeping a still face and a contained performance as she ranged from the little girl who hid under the piano during the Blitz to the tired typist who balanced work with motherhood and a painful disease. She was a contrasting character to the strong personalities of her mother Doris and her own daughter and grand-daughter.

Emily Pithon shone as Jackie, the artistic rebel who had a secret teenage pregnancy and then went on to build a successful and dynamic career. As the frustrated mother who could never reveal her true identity to her own child, Pithon caught best the ongoing inner torment of motherhood, and of wanting the child to be safe and protected at all times. There was a particularly impactful moment when Jackie was retrieving a baby doll that had been buried in the garden, and then for a moment Pithon held it and rocked it with a deepness of love that flooded the theatre.

Joëlle Brabban was lively and vivacious as Rosie, the youngest character. Rosie displayed little interest in a career, and calmly rejected motherhood. We never got to know her future, and left her in her late teens making banners for a protest group she had joined.

Katie Posner’s direction was brisk and unsentimental, even brutal at times. A mother herself, her understanding of the richness of that inner world permeated the production. She carefully didn’t take sides, as the characters wrangled out through the generations the pulls of children, work, and personal fulfilment; and the ending feeling was simply that it’s always been tough, and it always will be.
Simply one of the best theatre productions on motherhood that this reviewer has ever seen.

Reviewer - Thalia Terpsichore
on - 7/9/19

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