Thursday, 21 April 2016

Review: My Mother Said I Never Should at the St James Theatre

My Mother Said I Never Should 
St James Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 18th April 2016

Charlotte Keatley’s 1985 debut play My Mother Said I Never Should made its mark with an Olivier nomination for her as Most Promising Newcomer, and in 2000 it was listed as one of the 100 Significant Plays of the Twentieth Century by the National Theatre. While I wouldn’t personally bestow that sort of honour on it, this is a both moving and often very funny examination of relationships and social pressures told through the lives of four female members of the same family.

Strip things back and the plot is straight out of Albert Square, but clever construction, a time-shifting narrative and Keatley’s superb ear for dialogue lifts it to a new level.

When Jackie (Katie Brayben) falls pregnant without a man on the scene she is unable to cope. Her mother Margaret (Caroline Faber) takes in the child and raises it as her own daughter. But when Rosie (Serena Manteghi) grows up idolising Jackie as an older sister, the long-held secrets and lies threaten to cause fractures in the family unit. Casting a wise eye over events across the decades is Doris (Maureen Lipman); mother, grandmother, great grandmother and rock —herself the child of an unmarried woman — who has the strength of will to take practically everything in her stride. 

Director Paul Robinson’s sensitive production is played out on Signe Beckmann’s effectively minimalist set where video installations provide historical context, and he is blessed with excellent performances. Katie Brayben is terrific as the ambitious Jackie whose sometimes-bluff exterior barely hides the pain of her separation from Rosie, while Maureen Lipman has rarely been better. In a finally nuanced turn she moves effortlessly from tragedy to impeccably timed comedy.

It could be said to be a tad too long and the pressures of why Jackie gives her baby up are never fully explored — surely in 1970s Britain a single mother wouldn’t take such a course of action quite so readily. But this is a well-executed production of a landmark work.

Reviewed by Tony Peters 

My Mother Said I Never Should runs at the St James Theatre until 21st May 2016.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Savannah Photographic

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