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Excellent production will linger long in the memory

My Mother Said I Never Should, Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth, to Nov 10. Mothers and daughters as a generic grouping can make a pretty heady mix, and the point has seldom been so sharply defined as in this extraordinary play.

Paradoxically, it unfolds against a background of everything we might class as ordinary, and in capturing such a double-standard quality, this production truly pinpoints how potent local theatre in its finest hours can be. It’s made even more remarkable by the fact that director Mary MacDonald, having crafted and refined such a formidable endeavour, was unexpectedly required to step into the leading role at short notice to replace Vicki Hollings. Top that with her portrayal of the matriarch of four female generations, positively sizzling with humour, nostalgia and sadness, and the achievement we’re witnessing is no less than mind-blowing. It works at every level that the play by Charlotte Keatley allows. The piece has occasional shortcomings of repetition and haphazard construction but these are readily subdued by its honesty and insight. Through various periods of the 20th century, the life and relationships and family secrets emerge through a spirited blend of performances. Scarlett Behl and Siobhan Twomey are both illuminating and exhilarating as the younger strand and Gill Bowser is strongly effective as the in-between mum struggling with her own inner demons and signalling some of the play’s more tragic elements. The production thrives on simplicity of design, with excellent back-projection capturing the normal passage of time, while occasionally we are whisked back to scenes of comical childhood play which harbour an almost sinister resonance to things that lie ahead. Handled as well as it is here, the play raises many questions on issues such as ageing, loss of innocence and unwanted pregnancy. The thoughts and significance of it all linger long after the final bows.

Pictured: (Back row, left to right) Jackie (Siobhan Twomey), Doris (Vicki Hollings), Margaret (Gill Bowser) and (front) Rosie (Scarlet Behl).

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