This review was originally posted on thePDQ in June 2016.

Though written in the ’80s, Charlotte Keatley’s play My mother Said I Never Should is anything but dated due to its universal themes of motherhood, family, dreams, and the expectations put on women throughout the generations.

Performed in the quite intimate St. James’ Theatre, with the audience places in a semi-circle around the stage, images were conjured up in my mind of sitting in a circle at school ready for story-time, and with the presence of children a key feature of the play, it only added to the idea of childhood nostalgia and what life was like before learning the truth about how harsh the world can be.

The play itself is structured in a way which sees the four generations of women in the play at different stages of their lives – from childhood to motherhood, though in non-chronological order – which enabled us as an audience to see the relationships develop between characters and how their past events help shape them into the mothers and family members they are later on in the play.

The performances by the four actresses were utterly superb. The chemistry between them really did feel like a family, and they all brought different elements of family life into the show. National treasure Maureen Lipman added dry wit and humour to the show as the character of Doris, the oldest member of the family, acting as the ironic commentator on the family drama which unfolds in the play (which I won’t mention in case I spoil it for anyone).

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Maureen Lipman as Doris
Hilary Tones, as Margaret, Doris’ daughter, was perhaps my least favourite character, though this is of no discredit to the actress. It might have been because Margaret is a character which shows all of the worry motherhood brings, and to me, as a young woman barely out of childhood watching the show, encased everything I would have hated – let your daughter(s) have fun, Margaret! However, her final monologue inspired by Alice in Wonderland was very moving.

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The younger generations of the family, Jackie (Katie Brayben) and Rosie (Serena Manteghi) both gelled incredibly well together and added such energy and light to the performance. Manteghi whizzed across the stage like a fire cracker, adding such vivacity and life to the character of Rosie, who we never see past sixteen. Incredibly energetic, she was funny and endearing, and a real antithesis to Margaret. Additionally, I had serious envy over her dungareesimageedit_3_9594280701

Brayben as Jackie was my favourite performer. Seeing her act very convincingly as a child in the ‘70s growing into a young woman with the many new choices women were given in the ’80s was incredibly moving, and he final speech had me in tears.

The overall production value of the show was incredible. Minimalist, but perfect for a play which is centred on the heart and family connections rather than lavish set. One choice I will acclaim set designer Signe Beckmann for is his use of multiple television sets around the stage which played footage from the different eras the play is set in (from the ‘40s-‘80s) in order to give some context on the era we are watching. These included wartime commercials, and pieces of Margaret Thatcher.

Overall, I’d say it was a real treat to watch this production by Tiny Fires, as it is a great piece of theatre for, about, and by women, and really makes you think about the trials and tribulations of growing up, family, and expectations.

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Katie Brayben as Jackie and Serena Manteghi as Rosie
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