My Mother Said I Never Should review

Charlotte Keatley’s well-known play explores four generations of women – each trying to unravel their own issues, and those embedded in them from their very different upbringings.

We have Doris Partington, a cold though well-meaning woman who always wanted the best for her daughter having been brought up by a single parent (which was frowned upon in those days). Her daughter, Margaret Bradley, attempts to overcome her mother’s coldness by offering nothing but warmth and affection to her daughter Jackie – though it may seem overbearing. Jackie is the rebel who wants better from her life – she isn’t a housewife by nature – she’s a modern, forward-thinking woman who wants to succeed. When she has a baby, Rosie, she asks her mother Margaret to bring her up as her own. Of course, the secret is revealed and the big question is asked of all women – how could we have done things differently?

The play itself is touching and inquisitive, exploring the complex relationships between each of the women and how their own upbringing and views on the woman’s role in the home has affected their own children.

The cast are a talented bunch, but unfortunately act each part almost identically to one another (bar very different accents, which is a little confusing). Carole Dance as Doris is pleasant, though as weak as her daughter Margaret (played by Connie Walker). Both deliver their heart-felt monologues well, but it’s hard to really feel what they’re saying. Kathryn Ritchie as Jackie is perhaps the most am-dram of the bunch (I hate to say it, but I’ve actually seen the part performed better by an amateur actress – which is extremely rare), with over-exaggerated looks of despair and arm-waving. Felicity Houlbrooke as Rosie is just generally young throughout. It’s hard to know really how old she is at any given stage as her character doesn’t progress much. Her impression of a baby crying is pretty impressive, though.

Overall, I feel the issue lies in the direction. Michael Cabot has explored the four generations as almost identical women – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree kind of mentality. But I don’t feel this is the point of the play – the women need to be shaped and developed in relation to the other characters’ personality and dominance. It should be a connection and an evolvement, not a replica. This in some ways weakens the powerful play’s exploration of character and the responsibility of motherhood.

The set is great. Designer Bek Palmer has created an eerie, abstract set that seamlessly moves through the ages without clunky set changes. It means the show flows well through the generations, and it’s clear where we are in the timeline.

Overall, an interesting show thanks to Keatley’s fab writing.

Photograph credited to Sheila Burnett

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