About Time You Saw: My Mother Said I Never ShouldBy Charlotte Collins
Maybe I just needed a good cry. You know when you haven’t had a hearty sob in a while, and a minute catalyst sets you off? Perhaps it was that. It came on very suddenly and was a bit of a shock, because no one told me that the play was a weepy. Not one of the reviews of My Mother Said I Never Should, now playing at the St James Theatre, warned of tear-jerking moments – just promising acting and uncompromising social commentary – yet there I was, seat E16, blubbing my way through both acts like a teething child.
It might have been the historical context that triggered it. We witness the unfolding lives of four female generations of one family –formal 40s housewife Doris (Maureen Lipman) becomes first a mother and eventually a great-grandmother across the span of the play – peppered by temporal references to indicate not just her ageing, but the social response to women at each pivotal moment in her and her lineage’s lives. Archaic TV screens are scattered across the stage showing footage of everything from Mad Men-esque 50s offices to iconic Thatcher speeches, creating – far from hopeful optimism about the evolution of attitudes towards women – a sad impression that the female sex has only ever been, and therefore will always be, bound by imposed social confines.
So that was depressing enough. Then came the storyline itself. Doris’ daughter Margaret (a controlled, honest performance by Hilary Tones) works relentlessly to give her own child Jacky a better life, only to find herself bringing up Jacky’s daughter when she is unable to provide for her. As we watch this youngest family member, Rosie, grow, the tension mounts in anticipation of her finding out who her mother really is – the fear, sadness and resentment felt by each woman portrayed through non-naturalistic childhood flashbacks. An raw and emotional evaluation of our relationships with other mothers and daughters, despite moments of laughter this is not a light hearted play by any means. But what it is is a thoughtful assessment of women in our society – a seriously good watch for anyone who’s ever struggled with their own identity within a family or the world – and a proper, good old weepy.
Tickets available here.