Theatre review: My Mother Said I Never Should

My Mother Said I Never Should at The Theatre, Chipping Norton

My Mother Said I Never Should at The Theatre, Chipping Norton - Credit: Archant

Clare Mackintosh reviews My Mother Said I Never Should at The Theatre, Chipping Norton; a domestic drama exploring mother daughter-relationships, set in the 1920s.

Charlotte Keatley’s award winning play My Mother Said I Never Should premiered in 1987 and its continued success is testament to the continued relevancy of the issues it explores. Doris meets her husband in the 1920s, leaving a teaching career in favour of keeping house and playing mother. Her daughter Margaret marries an American after the war and has Jackie, who subsequently gives birth to the illegitimate Rosie when still just a teenager herself. When life as a single mother becomes too much, Margaret takes her granddaughter home and brings up Rosie as her own child. But family secrets can’t be kept forever.

The decision to stage this production in the round meant a proximity that was, at times, uncomfortable. We weren’t so much watching a play as eavesdropping on domestic life: as the truth about Rosie’s parentage leaked out neither the actors nor the audience had anywhere to hide. The simple staging was both innovative and practical, giving just enough indication of setting, without being a distraction. The play is non-linear, spanning more than 60 years; four generations; several locations. The risk of audience confusion was minimised by clever costume or hair alterations, bringing us firmly into the right place and time.

The cast made a strong team, and although Rosie (Charlotte Croft) was a little unsubtle at times she presented a strong stage presence and managed well the transition from rebellious child to maturing teen. Great-grandmother Doris (Sue McCormick) provided some much-needed humour, and it was this light and shade that kept the pace engaging. The relationship between Margaret (Zara Ramm) and her daughter Jackie (Jessica Guise) was heart-breaking and brilliantly portrayed, with just as much said in silence as through dialogue.

Of as much importance as the characters, yet unobtrusive enough to be almost invisible, is the brilliant score from composer Harry Sever. Managing at once to be contemporary and perfect for the era in which each scene is set, the music offers a haunting backdrop to already emotional scenes.

My Mother Said I Never Should provides an unrivalled insight into mother daughter relationships, and Director John Terry has created a taut, emotional production.

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My Mother Said I Never Should runs until 11 March 2015 at The Theatre, Chipping Norton. Tickets from 01608 642350 or online at www.chippingnortontheatre.com

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