The Theatreguide.London Review
Mum's A Twat
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs January 2018
This first play by Anoushka Warden doesn't have a great deal that's new to say. But it introduces us to a delightful character and serves as a showcase for a talented and charming performer, and that is sufficient for an enjoyable eighty minutes.
The published text labels this monologue 'an unreliable version of a true story', so the basic outline is evidently the playwright's own experience. The teenage speaker's mother wasn't at first more than ordinarily annoying, her biggest crime being marriage to a man the daughter names only as Moron.
But then Mum got involved with a cult.
It sounds a fairly benign cult as cults go, with no slavery or weird sex. Mum got caught up in some faith healing mumbo-jumbo and depended on the cult leader for all decisions, including being sent to Canada to head a branch office while her daughter stayed with dad.
All this is told in the absolutely believable (if not always trustworthy) voice of the teenage daughter, giving the monologue a bit of an Adrian Mole flavour.
We catch the authentic characterisation in the way the girl describes her various full, half and step siblings in terms of their musical tastes, and it is both comic and touching that her vacation visits to Mum in Canada are emotionally complicated because her anger is balanced by the delights of first friends, first romance and first drugs.
Moron may be more than a bit of a plonker, but it is clear that her disdain is more on general principles than for any specific sins, and it believably takes the girl a long time to become able to see her mother as victim more than villain.
Sensitively directed by Vicky Featherstone and Jude Christian, actress Patsy Ferran skilfully navigates the jumps backward and forward in time and the adolescent mood shifts, while keeping the girl's core of good sense and indistinguishable spirit always in sight.
(The weakest section in the script comes in the final moments as the character abruptly switches to a decades-older voice and point-of-view, but Ferran papers over the gap.)
The actress's own charm, energy and intelligence infuse the characterisation, making both the character and the play more engrossing, convincing and just plain entertaining than they might have been in lesser hands.
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