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Review: My Mother Said I Never Should

A pertinent reminder to call your mum


The Heywood society’s rendition of Keatley’s ‘My Mother Said I Never Should’ is a poignant representation of the bittersweet tale of motherhood, opportunity and the impenetrable family ties that connect us to the past.  Following the complex interconnected lives of four generations of women, the play gives us an emotional insight into the generational experiences and expectations which can divide and unite us.

(Image credits: Veronika Gabets) Lilian Jones, Olivia Khattar, Arabella Alhaddad and Fiona Popplewell in rehearsals

A non-linear patchwork of narratives, the production stitched together the lives of the traditional and selfless matriarch Doris, her efficient and resolute daughter Margaret, creative, career driven granddaughter Jackie, and idealistic Rosie, left unencumbered from the trappings of the past by her youthfulness. Liberated from their relationship to men, this is a provocative exploration of the formation of the female identity in conflict with the sweeping social changes of 20th century England.

With a focus on such resonant and enduring themes, the audience couldn’t help but be entranced. At times, however, the script’s aphoristic universality lent itself to an over-theatricality that unintentionally broke the spell and reminded us that despite the immediacy of the narrative, we were still sitting in an audience, communally basking in twenty-first century privilege. 

(Image credits: Gabriella Shennan) Olivia Khattar and Arabella Alhaddad as Margaret and Jackie

Nevertheless, the cast’s wonderfully immersive performances instantly drew us back into their tale. Lilian Jones flawlessly embodied the ‘in my day’ Grandma figure, capturing Doris’ internal conflict between the expectation of familial devotion and the simultaneous recognition of the experiences she had missed out on. Meanwhile, Arabella Alhaddad perfectly performed the role of the liberated younger generation, enjoying the opportunities denied to older generations who live vicariously through them and persist in inflicting their own expectations upon them. Think of the awkward family dinner at its most extreme.

(Image credits: Gabriella Shennan) At work on perfecting the set

The poignancy of the plot was made even more apparent by the intimacy of Corpus Playroom, the most effective setting to convey the stark conflict between childhood ignorance and the omniscience of hindsight. Director Gabriella Shennan commented on the intentionality behind the staging of the production, explaining how the theatre’s two entrances enabled the play’s non-linearity, while Ioana Dobre’s thoughtful set design served to remind us of the constant intrusion of the past on the present.

Although the performance may have felt slightly drawn-out at times, its relevance cannot be overstated. In a society where we are more disconnected from one another than ever before, we should be all the more grateful for such a reminder of the inextricable links that connect us to our roots.

4/5

My Mother Said I Never Should is showing at the Corpus Playroom at 7pm from the 7th February – 11th February. Book your tickets here.

Feature image credits: Vera Gabets

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