MY MOTHER SAID I NEVER SHOULD
by Charlotte Keatley.
St James Theatre to 21 May
12 Palace Street, London SW1A 5JA to 21 May 2016.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 264 2140.
Review: William Russell 18 April’
Women’s rites and rights beautifully observed.
Strongly cast and well directed by Paul Robinson, a man walking on egg shells, this revival of Charlotte Keatley’s fascinating play about four generations of women and their differing expectations of what life, love and marriage can bring is both funny and sad. Life can be cruel.
It was first staged in 1985 when Keatley was only 25 and the awards duly followed. For the time it was unusually constructed in that their stories were not told chronologically, but out of order with each character taking centre stage in turn.
It is framed with the four actors who make up the cast pretending to be children playing rather nasty little girl games about murdering mummy; it’s a conceit which does not really work all that well. The device was criticised at the time, and the criticism now looks justified. The strutting around chanting rhymes and playing power games seems contrived and it is not until the stories proper begin that one becomes fully involved in the play.
But once that starts it is a world anyone who was alive in 1985 and of theatre going age would recognise as ringing true to the time and the times before. Although women’s role in society has changed dramatically much of what Keatley had to say remains just as true as it was then.
Maureen Lipman on splendid form plays Doris, the matriarch, no nonsense plain spoken northerner whose daughter, Margaret, played by Caroline Faber has married well enough, but it is a marriage that has gone stale. Her ambitious daughter, Jackie, played by Katie Brayben, is at college, gets pregnant by a married man and cannot cope with her baby daughter, Rosie, played by Serena Manteghi.
Jackie lets her mother bring Rosie up as her sister, a mistake which will echo down the years.
The playing is very good indeed, the clinically empty set decorated with assorted television sets on which the events of the years are screened provides a perfect setting for what we see. Some of them are devastating in the sheer horror of how men managed then to condescend to women.
Signe Beckmann’s clever set divorces the events from any feeling of this being yet another kitchen, sink or suburban living room drama and somehow makes it all seem universal. By the end, when Lipman gets the last word as her youthful self in love and proposed to it, becomes very sad indeed. Life ahead for her will not be a nightmare, but dreams will not come true and the same goes for her daughter, grand daughter and great grand daughter.
Love can go stale, marriage is something people have to work at, and sometimes it may not be worth the trouble.
Jackie: Katie Brayben.
Margaret: Caroline Faber.
Doris: Maureen Lipman.
Rosie: Serena Manteghi.
Director: Paul Robinson.
Set Designer: Signe Beckmann.
Lighting Designer: Johanna Town.
Composer & Sound Designer: Simon Slater.
Video Designer: Timothy Bird.
Costume Designer: Helen Coyston.
Movement Director: Lucy Cullingford.