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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Mum's The Word
Albery Theatre Spring 2003

Neither play nor revue nor staged reading, this light entertainment is almost in a genre of its own. But whatever it is, it's good fun, and should appeal to its target audience - mothers, anyone who has ever partnered a mother, and perhaps anyone who's had a mother - for a successful run.

Originally created ten years ago by a sextet of Canadian actresses who had found their careers interrupted by motherhood, this wry, mostly comic look at the daily lives of women who seem to have unwittingly divorced themselves from the adult world for the duration is performed by a stand-up comic, a singer, a soap star, one of the original writers, and two stage actresses.

They sit in a row across the stage and take turns delivering brief monologues on the joys, frustrations and confusions of motherhood. There's no plot and little interaction among them beyond knowing nods or laughs. But the shared experiences build up a sense of communal warmth that extends to the audience, particularly those women who can identify with the onstage sisterhood.

And so we hear about the jumble of emotions that surround birth, the delights of washing nappies, the ease with which one adjusts to a world of puke and poo, the discovery of one's capacity for total exhaustion, the fear that you have drifted beyond contact with the adult world or with the self you were before, and the realisation that no man can possibly understand your life.

Comic, wry and serious bits are distributed rather evenly among the performers, though one senses a hint of typecasting as Jenny Eclair gets some of the more cynical moments and Imogen Stubbs the more winsome bits.

Cathy Tyson carries the evening's one sustained serious sequence in a running account of watching over a fragile premature baby, and later conveys the panic of a briefly lost child. Carol Decker, Patsy Palmer and Barbara Pollard round out the cast, and director Wayne Harrison keeps everything flowing while sustaining the audience-performer bond.

I'm sure that at some point in its creation the original six toyed with calling this The Uterus Monologues, and its appeal, power and entertainment value have much in common with Eve Ensler's celebration of the vagina.

Women will be empowered by the reminder that their own experiences of motherhood were not unique. Men might even learn something.

And everyone will laugh a lot, weep a bit, and then laugh a lot more.


Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Mum's The Word - Albery Theatre 2003

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