Review: My Mother Said I Never Should
My Mother Said I Never Should –10 March 2020 – Exeter Northcott Theatre.
Written by ExTS Reviewer, Pippa Meaker
“A moving and funny exploration of the lives of four generations of women in one family. Shifting back and forth in time, we see their loves, expectations and choices play out against huge social change from 1900-1980’s.Presented in British Sign Language and spoken English and featuring a cast of 1 hearing and 3 d/Deaf actors, this production’s visual, physical storytelling captures the rich breadth of communication styles that have always been used by the d/Deaf community.”
Integrated BSL and Captioning and Audio Description, with touch tours before every performance.
Prior to attending this performance, I had, to my shame, never heard of My Mother Said I Never Should by Charlotte Keatley. Yet, from studying an education pack provided by London Classic Theatre, the play has been translated or produced in 31 countries from Japan to Peru and is the most widely performed play ever written by a woman. I was interested as to how Fingersmiths would make the play more accessible to the D/deaf community as it appeared to be quite a wordy play with an emphasis on the communication (or lack of) between the four family members who make up the cast. Taking my seat, I noticed that though the majority of the audience were women, there was a healthy smattering of males and that I was in the minority being neither D/deaf or able to sign or understand British Sign Language.
Sophia Lovell Smith has designed the set to be compact and relatively sparse yet it switches easily and believably between home, garden, office and the neutral space where the characters meet as children, somewhat outside the main body of the play. My Mother Said I Never Should is unusual in its structure in that it is not chronological and skips about in time. The audience is helped in processing this through clever use of costume and for the hearing or hard of hearing through the playing of music from the particular periods we are taken back to; George Formby, The Kinks and Madonna to name a few. The play is also interspersed with scenes of the four generations of women meeting in a kind of fantasy wasteland as children. Adult actors pretending to be children can be clumsy and awkward yet all of the cast performed well in this. I personally however found this aspect of the play somewhat unnecessary and distracting from the main story.
My Mother Said I Never Should is very strong on characterisation and on analysing the differences between generations brought about by historical change. Birth, marriage, love, work and death are examined through the eyes of the Doris, Margaret, Jackie and Rosie who are speaking through their own experience and trying, and often failing, to understand the different viewpoints and experiences of their loved ones. Ali Briggs, as Doris, particularly stands out as she manages to portray toddler, excited soon-to-be bride and elderly widow equally convincingly. Jackie, played by E J Raymond, is hugely expressive in her signing and facial expressions and beautifully captures her character’s frustrations and anger over attitudes to sexual freedom, single motherhood and career choice. Margaret, played in a wonderfully quiet and subtle manner by Jeni Draper, evokes a sympathetic response whilst Lisa Kelly’s Rosie provides a more modern and energetic take on life (if the 1980’s can still be considered modern!), comfortable in expressing herself about her hopes and desires and not only for a Sex Pistols T-shirt.
This being my first introduction to the play I have no comparisons to make. The production is, on the whole, cleverly done, though the use of subtitles and occasional voice-overs can be disorientating as you try to process a number of elements at the same time. This however is probably due to my position as a hearing and non-signing audience member as there were quite a few moments in the play that were lost to me and not others, the reaction at the end suggested my fellow audience members loved it. Fingersmiths website states that they use ‘a multi-layered approach to language and expression’ and that one of their aims (there are a few) is ‘to attract new Deaf practitioners, audiences and participants’ and in this I can wholeheartedly say they have succeeded.
My Mother Said I Never Should runs at the Northcott theatre until the 11thMarch.
Tickets are £18.50 - £14. Concessions available. Members discount.
Book online for the Exeter Northcott using the below link.
This show is included in Exeter Northcott’s ‘Ones to Watch’ selection. The shows included are exciting, ground-breaking and feature stellar up-and-coming and established performers and theatre companies and savings can be made when booking more than one show. Click on the below link to find out more.