My Mother Said I Never Should by Charlotte Keatley – New Wolsey Theatre till Saturday 16th February
This gripping play shows the importance of a mother /daughter relationship and how each character’s relationship changes throughout the different eras of the 20th C.
The core structure of the play is based around Jackie being a young mother and keeping a dark secret from her daughter. Her own mother, Margaret, and grandmother, Doris, contribute to keeping this secret and bringing up their own daughters as if everything was normal.
The audience are first introduced to the characters as their younger selves (being around the ages of 4-8) as they are playing together and the older children are picking on the younger ones. Throughout the play you see the characters reminisce on times when they were younger and this is effective, especially since the same four women play themselves as children and adults as they go through their life.
Since the play doesn’t follow a linear or cyclical structure, it is important that there are major differences when visiting past times so the audience can acknowledge what is going on.
Doris, played by Judith Paris, is the eldest of the four characters being the mother of Margaret. She was brought up during war time and has very little experience of life outside of war. Margaret (Lisa Burrows) is also brought up during war, however this is towards the end of it so she doesn’t understand with depth what’s going on because of her age and innocence. Her daughter Jackie (Kathryn Ritchie) is of the younger generation, around the 1960’s. At a young age she falls pregnant after acting naively with an on/off partner.
Soon we meet Rosie (Rebecca Birch). She is a conventional teenager; arguing with siblings (or in her case who she thinks is her sister), gossiping about boys and getting excited or upset over the little things in life.
The names of the characters and the costumes help to show what period of time each of the characters were born; Doris in a Victorian gown, Rosie in a jumpsuit etc. It was an interesting choice to put Rosie in a jumpsuit and the other characters in dresses as it shows how the roles of women have changed, especially since Rosie is the only character that doesn’t mention a love interest.
Director Michael Cabot has chosen an interesting set to compliment the performance. The use of a rip in the barbed wire fence as a door was very creative, as well as the pile of rubbish stage left turning into a piano in a few scenes. Although these ideas linked all the scenes together, I think the stage ended up looking overcrowded and messy as there were too many pieces of set and props lying everywhere. I can understand the look that the director was going for but I feel as if the set distracted us from what was being said at times.
As soon as the cast started performing I had a couple of thoughts going around in my head. Firstly, when Kathryn Ritchie as Jackie was speaking there seemed to be a strained tone; this could be down to a sore throat but it made her seem quieter than the others. As the play went on and her character grew older her voice became clearer and stronger. Secondly, as soon as Rebecca Birch entered the stage as Rosie my focus was instantly on her. This was due to her posture, confidence and overall stage presence. When she started speaking I was even more engaged as she put the emphasis on the right words and spoke clearly and with purpose. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance as an individual.
The cast seemed to bounce off of each other, and towards the end there were a few teary-eyed audience members enraptured with the story. All in all the show was high standard but I think it just needs a bit of work with the set and staging since it was all in one main space.
Sophie Parton (East Bergholt High School student)