My Mother Said I Never Should by Charlotte Keatley – fingersmiths – The New Wolsey Theatre till Friday 14th Feb then touring
This particular show has done the rounds before – and is also a favourite of am dram groups – and so I was interested to see if anything new could be brought out of this oft repeated classic.
fingersmiths describe themselves as ‘a visual physical theatre company’ that use a fusion of BSL and hearing actors with the aim of creating a production that is as accessible to both deaf and hearing audience alike . Very often when this is attempted the hearing side of the audience end up being the ones that struggle a bit – but fingersmiths production – once you got the idea of what they were doing – really worked – as well as succeeding in bringing something new out of the play.
The set was a clever mix of old and new, with plenty of areas that could transform from playground to 50’s terraced house, 60’s garden or 80’s London flat with very little movement of props or furniture.
Above was a kite shaped screen which helpfully projected the year each scene was set – useful since this is a play that does a lot of diving backwards and forwards in time, and which also projected sections of the script.
Only one of the actors – EJ Raymond who played Jackie – used BSL exclusively – and various methods were used to integrate her into what is essentially a script based play. Sometimes the other characters spoke for her – sometimes their answers to her questions was enough to get the gist – sometimes if there was just one other actor in conversation with her then there were voice over’s for both while they signed.
The story follows four generations of women growing up in Manchester through the war years and into the 80’s. The theme is mothers and their relationship to their daughters and how those relationships have changed over the years – but also the choices women are sometimes forced to make – especially in the face of difficult relationships with men. The various partners are only mentioned and never seen – and to be honest none of them are shown in a particularly good light. This is very much play for women about women.
Ali Briggs as Doris brought a lot of poignancy to the part of the grandmother whose life has not been easy – married to a man with whom she largely just rubbed along. Jeni Draper (who also directed) brought a vulnerability mixed with brittleness to the part of daughter Margaret, whose relationship to her mother is always a little distant but tries to do the best with her own wayward daughter Jackie – whose deafness was made an integral part of the character. Lisa Kelly as Rosie was always a watchable presence on stage – lending youth and vitality to the mix of women and lifting the pace and mood whenever she was present.
The music and costumes helped set the period of each scene – and although a little long due to the way the script was sometimes repeated – this was on the whole a very interesting and moving rendition of this well known play. Worth seeing.