10:46AM, Thursday 27 September 2018
‘My mother said I never should play with the gypsies in the wood ...’
Charlotte Keatley’s play about four generations of mothers and daughters begins with a simple skipping rhyme.
In shadowy lighting, four little girls play in a wasteland, each dressed in clothes from a different era: one in an Edwardian pinafore, another in 1930s Peter Pan collar dress, a third in a flowery mid-century smock and the last in 70s-style dungarees.
They enter through a hole in a wire fence, piles of junk lie underneath and a swing hangs from a leafless tree. They play in the mess, daring each other to badness.
Then the action switches back into time to Dora and Margaret, mother and daughter. There is an air raid and the little girl wonders excitedly if Hitler will fly over their house.
Presently we meet Margaret’s daughter Jackie, then young Rosie, in scenes that skip forward and back in time, building to creating a kaleidoscopic of the family.
The men are talked about but never seen, this is a close-up on mothers and daughters, full of frustration, fear and love as they cope through what life and the times throw at them.
Carol Dance is superb in the character of Doris, formal as a mother but affectionate as a grandmother and blessed with the best lines: ‘It’s not a house, it’s an end terrace’ she states in her firm Lancastrian accent.
And: ‘Don’t shout, I don’t want the neighbours to think I’m deaf.’
I felt most sorry for the character of Margaret, played sympathetically by Connie Walker who nevertheless caught her streak of martyrdom (some mothers do have ’em I’m afraid).
Felicity Houlbrooke fizzes as lively Rosie and Kathryn Ritchie captures the complex emotions of Jackie.
I didn’t know this beforehand but My Mother Said I Never Should is the most widely performed play ever written by a woman and this production, directed by Michael Cabot, does it justice. By turns funny, moving and thought-provoking, if you are wondering whether to go – you should.
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