CHARLOTTE Keatley’s play My Mother Said I Never Should is on stage at Yeovil’s Swan Theatre until Saturday 21st September, directed by Ian White.
It’s an oddly unbalanced piece, with moments of poignant lyrical writing interspersed with clunky efforts at progressing the story.
It starts with four young girls playing on a waste ground, discussing phrases they have heard (and misunderstood) and veering between intense dependence on their mothers and a desire to kill them. This way the writer explores the febrile and fragile relationships between mothers and daughters, spoken through the words of Doris, her daughter Margaret, HER daughter Jackie and the child that Margaret brings up, Rosie.
The playwright, a former Financial Times journalist, has created a work that is not only an A Level set book but is claimed as the most performed play in the English language written by a woman, so it must have looked like a perfect choice for the talented and versatile Swan company.
But on Wednesday night, in front of an audience whose only out loud laugh seemed to come when the children playing doctor and patient put an old style sanitary towel on their heads, it was inexplicably flat.
Shining out in this cast of four was Amy Kemp, but perhaps hers was the easiest role as she had mainly to play a girl between birth and 16, while the other three had much wider age ranges to encompass.
The Swan is usually known for its effective sets and close attention to detail, but in this production, where furniture and tables were shrouded in black cloths until they were used, and at times the costumes, described in the script, worked against the words, it seemed as though there had been no overview.
Marnie Doble had some memorable moments as the headstrong Jackie, and Jay Farmer was the constant presence as granny Doris. Alison Horswell needed a more nuanced approach to Margaret, which, caught in the middle of all the action, is undoubtedly the most difficult role.
The play starts a strong season at the Swan, where the audience can look forward to
High Whitemore’s Disposing of the Body, on stage in November.