My Mother Said I Never Should

Charlotte Keatley
London Classic Theatre
Richmond Theatre

My Mother Said I Never Should Credit: Sheila Burnett
My Mother Said I Never Should Credit: Sheila Burnett
My Mother Said I Never Should Credit: Sheila Burnett

My Mother Said I Never Should is the most widely performed play written by a female playwright. It appears on both A Level and GCSE syllabuses and has been produced in 31 countries. These facts alone give rise to high expectations.

On top of this, it is a full two months into 2019 and somehow I have not watched a single straight play. The past sixty days have been full of musicals, opera, dance and physical theatre but traditionally delivered dialogue hasn’t crossed my path.

What a treat then to encounter the famous My Mother Said I Never Should on the second leg of a national tour.

Sadly, this is not to be a glowing report. Despite a complicated, fragmented form—four women play multiple roles across generations and centuries—the content thrives on its ordinariness. This is a play exploring female intergenerational familial relationships, most importantly that of mother and daughter.

The main plot focuses around daughter Jackie (Kathryn Ritchie), who is attending art school in 1960 when she falls pregnant to her off-and-on-again boyfriend. Not able to cope as a young, single parent, she allows her baby Rosie (Rebecca Birch) to be raised by her mother Margaret (Lisa Burrows).

There is a condition: Rosie will be raised under the pretence that Jackie is her sister. The second half of the play then centres on how to tell Rosie the truth and grandmother Doris (Judith Paris) plays a pivotal role in the all of her younger relations lives.

The four actresses are commendable. Judith Paris shines brightest with her sincere performance and her excellent emotional range.

Jumping back and forth, all four performers are required to play young children. Sadly, these performances have been exaggerated so far that the children feel too obvious and it is a relief when these younger selves are largely phased out in the second half.

The play runs at just under 2 hours 30 minutes with interval but it felt far longer—some serious editing could assist.

That aside, this production simply doesn’t sparkle. My Mother Said I Never Should raises a host of interesting topics about the change of women’s roles across four generations, and Keatley has written some funny lines. Despite this, London Classic Theatre’s production doesn’t leap from the page and leaves me looking forward to my next musical.

Reviewer: Louise Lewis

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