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Stage Dragon Review: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre: My Mother Said I Never Should

Published on: 17 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 17 Apr, 2019

by Tricia Marcotti

The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre is home this week to the London Classic Theatre’s revival of Charlotte Keatley’s play My Mother Said I Never Should.

First performed in 1987, it was named by the National Theatre in 2000 as one of the “significant plays of the twentieth century”. It is studied at GCSE, A-level, university and drama schools.

My Mother Said I Never Should at the Yvonne Arnaud with Rebecca Birch as Rosie, Kathryn Ritchie as Jackie and Lisa Burrows as Margaret. Photos by Sheila Burnett.

It is unusual in my experience to find a play where all the characters onstage are women. The men in these women’s lives are alluded to and talked about, but are never seen or heard.

In the play, several generations of women in one family make individual decisions which have far reaching consequences for themselves and their family. The play explores the changing relationships between these women over time, and the effects of their actions on themselves and each other.

As the play covers a number of years, the set and costume designer, Bek Palmer, uses costume changes for each character to show whether they are presenting as a child or as an adult. As the play is fast-paced, some of these costume changes must be done very quickly (I’m sure the actors were changing in the wings), as most of the characters are in every scene.

The matriarch of the family, Doris, played by Judith Paris, used more than costume changes to show that her age was different from one scene to the next.

We heard childish piping, breathy young adult, mothering tones to her daughter, and a quavery older woman as she progresses through life.

Doris’s daughter, Margaret, played by Lisa Burrows, managed the transition from young child in 1940 to middle-aged woman in 1987 very capably and Margaret’s daughter Jackie, played by Kathryn Ritchie, also gave a transition from childhood to young adult to “thirtysomething”.

Finally, we have Rosie, played by Rebecca Birch. I found that Rebecca does great baby noises as one scene had Rosie in a basket with her mother trying to quieten her down. I really felt sorry for the mother as I know some babies can cry for hours on end!

My Mother Said I Never Should at the Yvonne Arnaud. Rebecca Birch as Rosie, playing with her doll in the garden.  Photo by Sheila Burnett.

While there are a large number of scenes in this play, each has a role in revealing the secrets that the characters have. No, I am not going to spoil your enjoyment by revealing any, but you must be alert as each scene travels in time (backwards as well as forwards).

I found that jumping back and forth in time from one scene to the next was a bit wearing, even though I could place the actors by their costumes.

When going to the theatre I always like to look at the set to see how it complements the story, but on this occasion I found the set a little disturbing and not helpful, and actually I wished I didn’t have to look at it.

The actors performed well for us last night, but I was a little disappointed by the audience turnout. Perhaps it is a result of half term, but the cast deserved more from Guildford.

The show is on at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre until Saturday, April 20. Tickets can be obtained at the Yvonne Arnaud box office on 01483 440000 or online by clicking here.

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