Tuesday, 15 October 2019

AMATEUR THEATRE REVIEW: My Mother Said I Never Should - The Garrick Playhouse, Altrincham

Charlotte Keatley’s 1987 play ‘My Mother Said I Never Should’ is a play about mother and daughter relationships. Spanning four generations of mothers and daughters over the course of 60 years, we watch the relationships mirroring one another with their hopes and dreams for their own children whilst overcoming their own failings as mothers, wives, daughters and women in a modern society.

Director, John Chidgey is no stranger to directing as he has credits as long as his arm (65 plays in total), including winning the coveted best play award for his recent Garrick production of An Inspector Calls and Best Director, twice from the Greater Manchester NODA awards. He has also directed My Mother Said I Never Should over twenty years ago when the play was in its infancy. He describes his previous production of the play as ‘a totally different production’ as it was a ‘simplistic studio interpretation’ and I cannot help but wonder if I might have preferred that production as this one seemed over-complicated by its own staging and completely misinterpreted style.

The Garrick has a wonderful stage with fantastic sound and light facilities. The huge set construction team are always brilliant at what they do. In this production, the design concept was by Mica Griffiths-Todd and the set consisted of a projected backdrop of the different settings and a large constructed area made up of three levels. There was lovely use of a swing on stage and the levels created everything it needed to be for a piece of realism. . .but I don’t think this play is realism. Despite being in awe of the set design and construction as a piece of theatre, I felt it prevented the audience from engaging in a major feature of this production which makes it stand out as a wonderful piece of contemporary theatre.

Keatley’s writing is poignant and produces a real sense of truth about the mother-daughter relationships. The disappointments in the long pauses and the sideways glances are all clear in the stage directions and the four wonderfully talented actresses in this production, did their best to reflect this on stage. . .but something was amiss. One of the features of this play is the ‘wasteground scenes'. In the script, Keatley creates a dystopian world in-between the narrative of the characters' lives, whereby all of the characters exist as young children with equal status by age but driven by the power of their personalities. What this does, is it shows the youngest in the ‘real world’ narrative to be the most powerful amongst the whole group and the eldest to be the least in control. What was really lacking in these scenes was a sense of direction because design concept wasn’t sufficient enough to signpost this to the audience. A downstage wash of light and some pretty dresses, just didn’t signal enough of a change to feel relevant or necessary to the story. One audience member actually commented that they would have enjoyed the production much more ‘if there hadn’t been all the inane dancing’ throughout. This ’inane dancing’ is what makes Keatley’s writing stand head and shoulders above that of her contemporaries and should never be considered as an add on.

With a cast of only four, these actresses had their work cut out for them in this production as it is very lengthy (1 hour 25 first half followed by 1 hour second half). Doris (played by Margaret Leslie), was a stand-out performer for me, as I felt she was best suited to her role as the grandmother, mother and finally the na├»ve 20 year old. Margaret (Sarat Broughton) was stern and stoic as the tragic mother figure trying to put right her daughter’s mistakes. Jackie (Kathryn Worthington) and Rosie (Meg Brassington) brought a youthful liveliness to the production with their on stage energy and were best suited to the roles of the children in the wasteland. The rapport between the cast members was excellent and they did their best to carry this production but unfortunately, as evident from the dozen or so empty seats in the second half, that it wasn’t completely successful.

Overall, I do like this play but I didn’t love this production. Although there was some real talent on stage, I just felt the production as a whole, missed the mark and was entirely performed in the wrong genre. Altrincham Garrick continues to challenge and engage its audiences with a wide variety of productions but I just felt this one didn’t match up to their usual standard.

Reviewer - Johanna Hassouna-Smith
on - 14/10/19

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